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Cricket news - The Pakistan juggernaut takes aim at Afghanistan

The smiles are back in the Pakistan camp

It is funny how the word 'bagsy' fits in everyday Yorkshire parlance in very different contexts. You bagsy the front seat on the Leeds double-decker, your football team should have bagseyd a Premier League berth last season. Crudely put, to bagsy is to claim something. And as locals tell you, once you have bagseyd something, it can't be taken away.

Pakistan will resonate with this emotion. A little over a week ago, some of the players didn't want to leave their hotel rooms out of fear of a backlash that incessantly followed them after the India defeat. Two big wins on, few players from the same lot strutted into Birmingham New Street Station on Thursday, exchanged handshakes and fist bumps with fans before boarding the train with their respective families to Leeds.

Of course, their progress to the semifinal will still be dictated by games not involving them, but Pakistan can claim to have bagseyd their vibrant style of play once again heading into the easier (on paper) of their must-win contests. The left-arm quicks are menacing again, Shadab Khan can draw an error even from the unflappable Kane Williamson, Babar Azam finishes off tough chases and Haris Sohail is the middle-order power-unit he was supposed to have been four years ago.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan are doing the other Pakistan things: Changing captains, dropping an in-form player for a senior player - Najibullah Zadran for Asghar Afghan - and curiously sending home players for disciplinary reasons. Barring a close game against India, they've largely spluttered through a campaign that promised so much following that win over Pakistan in the warm-up.

They still have two games to redeem themselves and the sight of Pakistan, with tetchy diplomatic and cricketing recent history between the two boards, should light a fire under them. The last time these two teams played, in a spicy ODI at the Asia Cup, three players found themselves in violation of the code of conduct and Shoaib Malik emerged as a match winner in a tense three-wicket win. A lot has changed since.

When: Pakistan vs Afghanistan, CWC19, June 29, 10:30 Local, 15:00 IST

Where: Headingley, Leeds

What to expect: A 'scorcher of a day' has been forecast by the met department, with temperature expected to go as high as 28 degree Celsius. A little over a month ago, England smashed 351 against Pakistan on this ground. Last week, however, they failed to chase down 232 against Sri Lanka. The wicket, despite some grass cover, looked dry on the eve of the game. Afghanistan's spinners should be interested while Pakistan's quicks will turn to slower balls and back of a length short deliveries as weapons of choice.

Team News:

Pakistan: Sarfaraz is unlikely to ring in any change, unless enforced by an injury, to a combination that has worked very well for him over the wins against South Africa and New Zealand.

Probable XI: Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Haris Sohail, Sarfaraz Ahmed (c&wk), Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir, Shaheen Afridi

Afghanistan: Seven matches into the tournament and Afghanistan still don't know their best XI. Nothing reflects their muddle more than playing Najibullah Zadran, easily among their better batsman, at No. 8 against Bangladesh. Gulbadin Naib has reiterated several times over that he wants his team to bat 50 overs, which has factored into the selections of both Asghar Afghan and Samiullah Shinwari into the XI. They could go back to explosive opener Hazratullah Zazai at the top at the cost of one of their experienced grafters in the middle.

Probable XI: Gulbadin Naib (c), Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Asghar Afghan/Hazratullah Zazai, Mohammad Nabi, Samiullah Shinwari, Najibullah Zadran, Ikram Ali Khil (wk), Rashid Khan, Dawlat Zadran, Mujeeb Ur Rahman

Did you know?

- Pakistan have a 4-5 win-loss record at Headingley in ODI contests. In World Cup games however, ther have a winning 3-2 record here.

- Afghanistan's spinners took only 8 wickets in their first five games. The last two games, on drier surfaces, has seen their spinners bag 9 wickets at an economy of 4.2

- Afghanistan have lost the most wickets - 47 - to fast bowlers in this World Cup

What they said:

"Look we are not thinking about the different scenarios of the other results. We just want to focus on our games and we are looking ahead only on a match-by-match basis. Tomorrow we have to play Afghanistan and win and after that we will begin preparations for Bangladesh," - Haris Sohail said his team wasn't paying close attention to the qualification permutations.

"In this World Cup, I don't think he's been at his best but he's given everything in terms of effort. If tomorrow is a Rashid day, it'll be very difficult for anyone" - Afghanistan skipper Gulbadin Naib is hopeful his lead spinner can give him a match to remember.

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