Pakistan’s win in the Super 4s will take them one step closer to the final, while Afghanistan will be eager to open their account in the Super 4s with a victory.
An overview of the form
Pakistan: WWLLW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
The Pakistani and Afghan teams, two teams who are very familiar with the conditions in the United Arab Emirates, are set to play each other in the Asia Cup for the first time on Wednesday, and only the third time in Twenty20 Internationals overall. Despite Pakistan having a perfect record against Afghanistan, having won both matches in 2013 and 2019, it is going to be a game where anyone can win in Sharjah despite Pakistan’s perfect record.
After picking up two impressive wins against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in the group stage of the Asia Cup, Afghanistan was beaten by Dasun Shanaka’s men after posting 175 for 6 in their first Super 4 encounter following their impressive start to the tournament. They were able to take away some valuable lessons from the experience. Firstly, it was a tight game. The spin trio of Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, and captain Mohammad Nabi have shown themselves to no longer be solely responsible for wickets. They have been winning matches with Fazalhaq Farooqi and Naveen-ul-Haq.
Among the top players in the batting department is such names as Najibullah Zadran, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, and Ibrahim Zadran, all of whom have proven to be excellent performers. For Afghanistan to be able to make it all the way to the final, they must maintain these levels throughout the tournament.
As for Pakistan, despite the fact that they had to deal with injuries to key players and their captain was out of form, they have been able to put up convincing victories. Despite the fact that Mohammad Rizwan has been covering for Babar Azam, he has been able to score 192 runs from three innings. Besides Fakhar Zaman and Khushdil Shah, several other players have contributed to the success of the team, and in the previous match, against India, allrounder Mohammad Nawaz scored 42 off 20 balls for the team after being elevated to the number four position.
From the three games they have played so far, Shadab Khan and Nawaz have shared 13 wickets between them, and their bowling remains their biggest strength. The attack looks even more potent when you include the young Naseem Shah into the mix.
On the move
It is not easy to fill in a hole of the magnitude of Shaheen Shah Afridi in Pakistan’s bowling lineup, but Naseem Shah has proven he has what it takes to make it close. With his searing pace and swing, he burst onto the scene in red-ball cricket, and as it turns out, that combination also works in shorter formats of the game as well. So far in the competition, the 19-year-old has been able to pick up five wickets in three matches and will have a big role to play in limiting Afghanistan’s improved batting as he goes forward. It is especially apparent when Haris Rauf, who is an experienced player, is struggling a little bit.
In his last match, Rahmanullah Gurbaz scored 84 off 45 balls against Sri Lanka – though he lost the match. Earlier in the Asia Cup opener, he also took part in a low-key chase in which he hit an 18-ball 40. This hard-hitting opener, who has a strike rate of 166.66 in the Asia Cup, poses a serious threat to Pakistan’s bowlers due to his high strike rate. There is no doubt that he is one of the key players Afghanistan will be relying on to lift the team up from the bottom of the Super 4 table to the top.
Conditions and pitch of the game
The team that bats first is likely to be looking to score big, as has been the case in two of the three matches played in Sharjah so far. There were 193 points scored by Pakistan against Hong Kong, while Sri Lanka chased down 174 points scored by Afghanistan.
News about the teams
As a result of the injury to Rizwan’s knee sustained on Sunday, the Pakistan medical team has cleared him to play and he will remain at the top of the order and behind the stumps, as well.
Pakistan Squad Lineup: 1 Babar Azam (capt), 2 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 3 Fakhar Zaman, 4 Iftikhar Ahmed, 5 Khushdil Shah, 6 Shadab Khan, 7 Asif Ali, 8 Mohammad Nawaz, 9 Naseem Shah, 10 Haris Rauf, 11 Mohammad Hasnain
There will be no change in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan Squad Lineup: 1 Hazratullah Zazai, 2 Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), 3 Ibrahim Zadran, 4 Najibullah Zadran, 5 Mohammad Nabi (capt), 6 Karim Janat, 7 Rashid Khan, 8 Azmatullah Omarzai, 9 Naveen-ul-Haq, 10 Mujeeb-ur-Rahman, 11 Fazalhaq Farooqi.
Facts and trivia
- Both of Pakistan’s previous T20Is against Afghanistan have resulted in victories for Pakistan.
- At this Asia Cup, Shadab Khan has the best economy rate of 5.43 among all Pakistani players (with a minimum of five overs played).
- In T20 cricket, Rashid Khan has dismissed Babar five times, conceding 58 runs off 48 deliveries, in five innings.