They Bat Like Afghanistan

Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - They bat like Afghanistan. Short ball? Hit. Full ball? Hit. Slow ball? Hit. Fast ball? Hit.

They Bat Like AfghanistanShort ball? Hit. Full ball? Hit. Slow ball? Hit. Fast ball? Hit.

This script was always meant to begin with the climax.

With Afghanistan preferring to bat first and Pakistan, like most other teams opting for the benefits of dew, likely to field – the battle of brawns was expected to play out in the first over of the contest itself.

Shaheen Afridi vs Afghanistan hard-hitting openers (Hazratullah Zazai and Mohammad Shahzad).

It all fell along predicted lines.

The left-arm pacer was expected to bowl full at the two batters who don't have the best of foot movement and try to beat them with pace and late swing. He didn't throw a surprise.

To counter that, Shahzad opened up his stance while Zazai took the legstump guard. Even as Afridi hit their pads thrice in the over and appealed with conviction, in trying too hard for pace without swing on offer, he kept straying in his line. With five runs and no wicket in the over, it was an anti-climatic end to what could've been the most riveting contest.

It may have seemed like a brief victory for Zazai and Shahzad, but that wasn't to mean much going further in the innings. The former fell mistiming a swipe off Imad Wasim in the next over, while the latter failed to connect an over-the-in-field hit off Shaheen in the third.

There were ample reasons for Afghanistan to temper their approach. But they seem to have bought into the neo-T20 style of batting – devalue your wicket and go for the boundary shots. In a way, they have simplified T20 batting.

Short ball? Hit. Full ball? Hit. Slow ball? Hit. Fast ball? Hit. Hasan Ali is livid? Hit. Wicket falls? Hit. Just hit a six? Hit.

If the West Indian team doesn't seem like the West Indian team in this T20 WC, switch over to Afghanistan already. That's where the entertainment is.

Ahead of the Pakistan match, leggie Rashid Khan had denied that the approach was as dumbed down as it seems. He had stressed on the importance of biding some time at the crease to be able to adjust to the pace of it before going on the aggressive.

In playing this wait before attack cricket without ample strike rotation in between meant that by the 13th over, Afghanistan had scored at less than run a ball despite playing a large number of high-risk shots, resulting in six wickets. Barring Asghar Afghan and Najibullah Zadran, all the batters were dismissed in trying to hit big. One of the phases of consolidation included overs 9-12, where Afghanistan scored only three runs. It could've looked poorly in the final score if not for the late surge by Nabi and Gulbadin Naib, which propelled them to 147/6

Courtesy Asif Ali's late hits, Pakistan may have overhauled the total with an over to spare, but strike rotation was a big differentiating factor between the two sides. While Pakistan scored 77 runs in singles and twos, Afghanistan picked only 45 runs.

There is evidently a carefree nature to their batting that fits in naturally. With the list of six-hitters going as deep as No 11 in the line-up, there is also the possibility to sustain attacking play – a luxury that most other teams don't have. They are utilizing their batting strength to the fullest.

Their success in T20 may have been built on the strength of the spin department, but it's their batting that's standing out amidst a host of approaches adopted by different teams on the slow and tricky tracks of UAE. And it is this approach, coupled with the assurance of their spinners to work better on the more tired surface, that requires Afghanistan to bat first and give up on the perks of dew affecting play in the second innings.

Despite the loss, Nabi doesn't regret the decision to bat first on the pitch. He sees the merit. “The decision to bat wasn't a bad one,” he said after the loss on Friday. “But we played a bit aggressively because the pitch was holding up a bit. The total on the board of 148 was enough on this pitch.

“We've focused on our bowling, so that our spinners can defend 150-160. Pakistan finished the game well in the end, but our boys played well – put up a good score on the board and restricted Pakistan till the 18th over.

“We've played only two games and won one game so far this world cup. That even today's game was a close one is a positive sign for us. Our team's morale is high.”

In the pre-tournament presser, Nabi was certain that his team has to perform in a way that would bring smiles to the people in his cricket-crazy home country – be it a victory or a good show.

Courtesy a more disciplined and clinical performance, Pakistan may have won the match on the day, but Afghanistan have made themselves noticed even in defeat. Whether this approach wins them more games consistently remains to be seen, but it has surely added to the entertainment quotient of the tournament, and hopefully made many smile in their home country.

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