Dubai : Afghanistan spinner Rashid Khan is clear about the thing his side needs to do in this edition of the ICC T20 World Cup — they have to “win three games out of five in order to qualify for the semifinals”. And the tweaker says, “that is the only theme we have in the mind as a whole team.”
After winning their opening game against Scotland by 130 runs, Rashid knows his spinners can wreak havoc, but he also knows that his team’s next opponent, Pakistan, are in imperious form and beating the neighbours would require a 100 per cent team effort.
Pakistan are 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 hand 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 familiar with the UAE conditions and have made the most of it. Both have stood out so far for their positive approach to building the innings with the bat, with both sets of openers in excellent touch. Both bowling attacks too have been incisive. Both teams play with a lot of pride, but they also tend to be unpredictable.
But both teams are unfamiliar with each other in the T20 format. This will be only their second meeting, with their previous encounter back in 2013.
Pakistan are high on confidence having defeated India by 10 wickets before overcoming New Zealand by five wickets. Coach Saqlain Mushtaq hailed the clarity with which the players are going about their task, and urged them to maintain that mindset to take on the Afghan spin threat.
Pakistan are unlikely to make changes to the XI which played against 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 a fearless cricket. And I think that kind of team can be dangerous.”
For Pakistan, Shaheeh 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. Agghanistan, 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.