Pakistan’s demolition squad set to roll over Afghanistan

With eyes on semi-final, Babar’s team look for third consecutive victory: Saqlain says Afghanistan playing fearless cricket which is dangerous

By: News Desk      Published: 10:08 AM, 29 Oct, 2021
Babar Azam drives the ball
File photos.

Pakistan cricket team is all charged and will look to move closer to a semi-final spot at the ICC T20 World Cup when it takes on Afghanistan in a Group 2 Super 12 game at Dubai International Stadium on Friday (today). The match will start at 7:00 pm (Pakistan Standard Time).

Pakistan has so far played 13 T20Is in the UAE since 2016, winning all of them. Babar Azam’s in-form men will start favourites against Mohammed Nabi’s Afghanistan, which began its campaign with a 130-run win over Scotland.

Mujeebur Rahman, with his variety of off-breaks, googlies and carrom balls, finished with five for 20. Such was its dominance that by the time Rashid Khan, the No 3-ranked T20I bowler in the world, came on to bowl, Afghanistan was already on course for a big win against Scotland, who were one of the few minnows playing in the tournament.

Pakistan cricket is well-oiled from the PSL experience of the players, as India and New Zealand found out. If Afghanistan have their mystery spinners, Pakistan has an impressive fast-bowling cast that can blow away the less experienced Afghanistan batters. If left-arm Shaheen Shah Afridi was the star against India, Harris Rauf stole the show versus New Zealand.

Against Pakistan, Afghanistan’s batters have to contend with a bowling attack of outstanding pedigree and variety. Shaheen Shah Afridi and Haris Rauf offer swing and pace while Hasan Ali and Imad Wasim bring control. Then there's the wily leggie Shadab Khan.

Pakistan’s batting is headlined by the in-form opening pair of captain Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan. Shoaib Malik's experience came to the fore in the chase against New Zealand, and in Asif Ali, Pakistan has a reliable finisher.

Despite facing a strong opponent, Rashid Khan is confident of a good show. “We want to give the kind of performances where fans back home can have joy and celebrate,” said Rashid.

Teams from:

Pakistan: Babar Azam (captain), Mohammed Rizwan, Fakhar Zaman, Mohammed Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Hasan Ali, Harris Rauf, Shaeen Shah Afridi, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohamed Nawaz, Asif Ali, Haider Ali, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Mohammed Wasim, Sohaib Maqsood.

Afghanistan: Rashid Khan, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Hazratullah Zazai, Usman Ghani, Asghar Afghan, Mohammad Nabi (captain), Najibullah Zadran, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Mohammad Shahzad, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Karim Janat, Gulbadin Naib, Naveen-ul-Haq, Hamid Hassan, Fareed Ahmad.

Pakistan have faced Afghanistan only once before in a T20 match, which they won. But that was pre-Rashid Khan. In their last two ODIs, Afghanistan have run them close. The cricketing history between the two neighbours may be brief, but players, no matter how averse to politics, would be aware of their long-standing geopolitical tension.

Rashid Khan is the best T20 spinner in the world and the most economical bowler in Indian Premier League history. 

“It’s a strong unit. You can’t say we will roll them over,” Saqlain Mushtaq, Pakistan’s interim head coach, said. “They have a wonderful bowling attack, especially spinners. And when they go for batting, they play fearless cricket. That kind of team can be dangerous.”

“In a mega event, you play with all the teams with the same intensity, attitude and mindset,” Saqlain said.

Pakistan strengths

Both bowlers and batters are in top form for Pakistan. If Shaheen Shah Afridi doesn’t take the wickets as he regularly does, then Haris Rauf will. Hasan Ali is never too far away from picking wickets. The role of spinners in the team is to stop the flow of runs and the likes of Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan and Muhammad Hafeez are doing what is expected from them perfectly.

On the batting front, openers Babar Azam and Muhammad Rizwan have stamped their authority as one of the most prolific opening partnerships in T20Is in recent times. The middle order comprising of Fakhar Zaman, Muhammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik and Asif Ali is a good mix of batters who can either drop anchor or play big shots. 

Pakistan weaknesses

The way the team is playing at the moment, it is difficult to figure out any problem areas or something that could be outrightly labelled as the team’s weaknesses.

Afghanistan strengths

Afghanistan come into this match on the back of an excellent bowling performance. The team has in its rank one of the finest T20 bowlers in the world, Rashid Khan. Mujeebur Rahman also showed his class as he ran riot against Scotland. Skipper Mohammad Nabi is also a fine bowler. If Afghanistan get to bat first and manage to post a competitive score, then the bowlers are capable enough to defend the total. 

Afghanistan weaknesses

The top order looks a bit devoid of experience. Although Hazratullah Zazai and Rahmanullah Gurbaz are big hitters of the ball, they are young and don’t have much T20 experience. Zazai has played 66 T20 matches and Gurbaz has the experience of playing in 49 T20 games. Against the quality bowling attack of Pakistan, experience would come in handy, something the batters are short of.

Head-to-head

The two teams have faced each other only once in a T20I match. The match was played back in December 2013 at... Sharjah. Pakistan defeated Afghanistan by 6 wickets in that match. 

Pitch and conditions

Three T20 World Cup matches have been played at this venue thus far and all three have been won by the team chasing a total. The average first innings total of the three matches is 116.33. The pitch is slightly on the slower side and scoring runs is proving to be difficult. The evening will be cool and clear. The temperature is expected to be around 28 degrees Celsius with humidity level around 50 percent.

Team News

Neither Afghanistan nor Pakistan have any fitness concerns heading into the match.