Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Buoyant Pakistan run into stern Afghanistan challenge. Pakistan have started the Super 12s with wins over India and New Zealand
Pakistan have started the Super 12s with wins over India and New Zealand
What's a Pakistan team without the outpouring of emotions?
Two group stage wins should've ideally just meant two group stage wins. But in a tournament where at best they stand to play five more matches, and at least three, the post-match celebrations reflected quite a bit of what wasn't obvious with their clinical and neat performances on the field.
The huddles, the selfies, the smiles – it all conveyed how the win over New Zealand meant far more than just a victory for this side. Having arrived to the showpiece event with issues rumbling in the background, Pakistan find themselves in a rather comfortable position now, even being touted as one of the favourites after the kind of start they've had.
They've displayed tactical nous and fine application on familiar conditions of UAE to outperform two of possibly their strongest competitors in the group. And now comes as familiar a challenge – to not live up to their past reputation of surprisingly underperforming. The slip-up can happen as early as Friday when they take on Afghanistan.
The Mohammad Nabi-led side may be coming into the tournament at the back of their own set of turmoils, but the manner in which they swatted aside Scotland in the previous game after their win in the practice match showed they meant serious business and would've sounded a warning to every other participating team in the competition.
They are familiar with conditions in UAE and their natural approach fits in well on the slow pitches. The form of their hard-hitting openers – Mohammad Shahzad and Hazratullah Zazai – coupled with the performances of their spinners, should place them strongly to pose a threat to Pakistan.
While the openers may not be great runners, the rest of Afghanistan's batters – especially Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Najibullah Zadran – can test Pakistan fielders in the big ground in Dubai. Pakistan were flawless in the field against India, and against New Zealand, they were sloppy and brilliant in equal measure.
Despite being favourites to qualify from the group, Pakistan still have a hurdle or two to cross – starting with a big one in Afghanistan on Friday. Babar Azam has warned his team to keep their emotions in check and concentrate on the next challenge at hand. But will it be as easy for them?
When: Afghanistan vs Pakistan, Friday, October 29, 6 PM (Local Time), 19:30 IST
Where: Match 24, Super 12, Group 2, Dubai International Stadium, Dubai
What to expect: Dew has played a key role in Dubai and will continue to do so, prompting teams to prefer chasing in the contest. Pakistan have been lucky with the toss so far. However, Afghanistan have had an overwhelming success batting first and setting targets, winning 20 of the 24 matches since the last T20 WC.
Head to head: Pakistan and Afghanistan have played only one T20I against each other – in 2013. Pakistan won that match by 6 wickets with only a ball to spare.
Injury/Unavailability: Pakistan is likely continue with its winning combination
Tactics & Matchups: Given Hazratullah Zazai's form and prowess, Pakistan might be tempted to hold back on using Imad Wasim upfront. In Pakistan's first two matches, Imad bowled only one of his 36 balls to a left-hander.
Probable XI: Babar Azam (C), Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf
Injury/Unavailability: No injury concerns for Afghanistan. They will also look to play the XI from their previous contest.
Tactics & Matchups: A lot will ride on Hazratullah Zazai, who displayed great form against several bowlers from the Pakistan squad in the latest edition of PSL. Hazratullah Zazai played two fine knocks in PSL 2021 play-offs against teams that had bowlers from the current squad. Karachi Kings had Imad Wasim while Islamabad United had Hasan Ali, Shadab Khan and Mohd Wasim.
Probable XI: Hazratullah Zazai, Mohammad Shahzad, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Najibullah Zadran, Asghar Afghan, Mohammad Nabi (c), Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan, Karim Janat, Naveen ul Haq, Mujeeb ur Rahman
Did you know?
– If Pakistan have a good record in T20Is in UAE, winning 24 of the 38 matches, Afghanistan have it even better – winning 27 of the 34 matches in the country.
– Mohammad Hafeez is the only Pakistani player to have played against Afghanistan in a T20I. Meanwhile, Afghanistan have six players who were a part of the lone T20I against Pakistan.
What they said:
“They (Afghanistan) have a wonderful bowling attack, especially their spinners. And when they go to bat, they play the way they feel it, what's in their heart, what they think. They just go and execute the plan. They just play fearless cricket. And I think that kind of a team can be dangerous.” – Saqlain Mushtaq.
“To be honest, we don't have the mindset of focussing on hitting sixes. We just have to adjust ourselves to the wicket as well. As long as you go there and adjust there, it becomes easier for you, especially on these pitches. That's the kind of mindset all the batsmen have… It's not about going hard at every ball.” – Rashid Khan.
(Stats inputs from Deepu Narayanan)