Rashid Khan, Afghanistan’s spinner, is clear about what his team needs to achieve to qualify for the semifinals of the ICC T20 World Cup this year: “win three games out of five to qualify for the semifinals.” “That is the sole theme we have in mind as an entire team,” adds the tweaker.
Rashid knows his spinners can wreak havoc after winning their first game by 130 runs against Scotland, but he also knows that his team’s next opponent, Pakistan, is in imperious form and that conquering the neighbours will need a total team effort.
Pakistan is unbeaten, with a perfect two-in-two record. Afghanistan, meanwhile, demolished Scotland in their opening game to give themselves a considerable net run rate boost and sit just under their neighbours on the points table.
“We have only this thing that we’re here for the World Cup and we’re playing five games and we need to win three games. And that is the theme we have in the mind as a whole team… You can only do what is in your hands, and that is in our hands to play the five games of this group stage and try to qualify for the semifinals and make the country proud,” said Rashid ahead of the ‘Super 12′ clash later on Friday.
Both teams are accustomed to the conditions in the UAE and have taken advantage of them. Both openers have been in fantastic form so far, and both have taken a constructive attitude to construct the innings with the bat. Both bowling assaults have been razor-sharp. Both teams play with a great deal of pride, but they also have a reputation for being unpredictable.
In the T20 format, however, both teams are unfamiliar with each other. This will be their second meeting, with the first taking place in 2013.
Pakistan is full of confidence after defeating India by ten wickets and New Zealand by five wickets. Coach Saqlain Mushtaq praised the players’ clarity in approaching their tasks and asked them to keep that mindset when facing the Afghan spin danger.
Pakistan is unlikely to make any changes to the team that defeated New Zealand.
“The Sharjah pitch, it is slow and low. It’s not easy to score big runs. But I think Dubai is slightly better. You need to execute your plan in a different way. You have to be technically quite strong, and you should know that what your scoring areas are and how to go about it on the day, how you’re feeling it. The boys are quite clear. They’ve been playing in these conditions for quite some time, like in the PSL (Pakistan Super League),” said Saqlain.
The coach however has asked his boys to be wary of the “fearless” mindset of the Afghan players.
“When they (Afghanistan players) go for batting, they just play, the way they feel it, what’s in their heart, what they think. They just go and execute the plan. They just play sort of fearless cricket. And I think that kind of team can be dangerous.”
For Pakistan, Shaheen Afridi has been in amazing form, devastating the opponents with his swing and pace and yorkers. His efforts against Afghanistan’s openers will be crucial. Afghanistan, on the other hand, would bank on their spinners, especially Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman. The young Mujeeb picked up five wickets to rip through Scotland’s challenge.
With a whole lot of variations and an element of mystery, Mujeeb is a handful in the Powerplay.
Pakistan probable XI: Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Babar Azam (capt), Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Imad Wasim, Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf.
Afghanistan probable XI: Hazratullah Zazai, Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Asghar Afghan, Mohammad Nabi (capt), Najibullah Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Karim Janat, Rashid Khan, Naveen-ul-Haq, Mujeeb Ur Rahman.
(With IANS inputs)