CARDIFF, WALES – JUNE 04: Rashid Khan of Afghanistan celebrates the wicket of Nuwan Pradeep of Sri Lanka during the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 group match between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka at the Cardiff Wales Stadium on June 04, 2019 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Alex Davidson / Getty Images)
Pakistan is expected to continue a surprise run in the Super 12 of the 2021 ICC T20 Men’s World Championship when Babar Azam’s team face Afghanistan on Friday. Azam has led his nation to shocking victories over India and New Zealand. The skipper flourished with the bat alongside Mohammad Rizwan while Haris Rauf was the star of the bowling attack.
Afghanistan won’t arrive at Sharjah Cricket Stadium with the same dynamic, but the squad has Scotland down 130 runs the last time beaten. Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Najibullah Zadran were most productive before the wicket.
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Captain Mohammad Nabi only needed 11 of the 190 runs that Afghanistan scored against Scotland. His job was made easier by the pairing of Gurbaz and Zadran. The former fought its way to 46 out of 37, including four sixes. Zadran was even more productive, putting 59 of only 34 balls on the board. Its expenses consisted of five fours and three sixes. He was eventually caught by Brad Wheal, but the damage was done.
The attack on Afghanistan was launched in style by opener Zazai. The 23-year-old buckled up a 44 of 30, managing a trio of fours and an equal number of sixes. If these thugs can maintain their form, Afghan order will be the key.
Azam will try to disrupt the innings with Shaheen Afridi. Pakistan’s Starpacer threw 13 points, took a wicket and only allowed 21 runs against the Black Caps. His performance was a worthy continuation of a formidable performance against India when Afridi snatched three wickets.
Fortunately for Pakistan, the bowling attack is anything but a one-man show. Not when Rauf is pounding the wicket with speed. His right arm proved fatal against New Zealand, taking a quartet of wickets. Those at the bottom of the Afghanistan command will fear Rauf’s targeting the wicket.
No bowler has taken more wickets in death overs since making his T20I debut in January 2020 than Haris Rauf
The # Pakistan runabout has an economy rate of 7️⃣.8️⃣9️⃣ in this phase of the inning 💪 # T20WorldCup pic.twitter.com/HFXXf7vqLm
Team Green also has more than one potential match winner at goal. Rizwan hit five foursome as a platform for a 33-run game against New Zealand, but Shoaib Malik and Asif Ali also caught the eye. They didn’t combine for 53, and both are adept at standing up to turn.
While the score against the Kiwis has been solid, Pakistan will need more runs to match and surpass the Afghan order. Azam and Rizwan will have to repeat their exploits against India when captain 68 wasn’t knocked out while his opening partner scored an unbeaten 79. Fakhar Zaman can also bring out more from key number three.
Leg spin specialist Rashid Khan will be Afghanistan’s main cure for Pakistan’s dynamic punches. Khan was ruthless against the Scots and sent Chris Greaves, Michael Leask, Brad Wheal and Josh Davey out of the fold. Khan will be helped if Mujeeb Ur Rahman can get things moving with some tricky, unconventional supplies.
The spin section of the Afghan attack plays the most important role in this. If they can dominate slow wicket early in the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan will abruptly end Pakistan’s Group 2 winning streak.