Big Picture – Advantage Afghanistan?
It’s now roughly halfway through the World Cup, and the table is beginning to take shape. Afghanistan and Pakistan, the two sides that take each other on in Chennai, are nowhere near the head of it, and it’s already beginning to approach must-win territory for each of these sides. Defeat for Afghanistan would almost certainly knock them out, while a Pakistan loss leaves Babar Azam’s side with no further room for error.
Afghanistan LWLLL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight: Ikram Alikhil and Shaheen Afridi
There isn’t much that Pakistan have had to cheer about the past couple of games, but Shaheen Afridi‘s performance against Australia was little short of world-class. In a game where Australia racked up 367, he registered figures of 5 for 54, including the innings’ only maiden over, in an exquisite bowling display that straddled all three phases. Things might have been even better for Pakistan had Usama Mir not shelled a simple chance off his bowling when David Warner – who would go on to score 163 – was on 10. He has a good record against Afghanistan, with 12 wickets at 15.25, and with Pakistan needing to get their World Cup back on track, Shaheen’s leadership with the ball could go a long way.
Team news – Does Usama Mir still make the Pakistan XI?
Afghanistan (possible): 1 Rahmanullah Gurbaz 2 Ibrahim Zadran 3 Rahmat Shah 4 Hashmatullah Shahidi (capt) 5 Azmatullah Omarzai 6 Ikram Alikhil (wk) 7 Mohammad Nabi 8 Rashid Khan 9 Mujeeb Ur Rahman 10 Naveen-ul-Haq 11 Fazalhaq Farooqi
The only question for Pakistan is whether Usama Mir, who had a disappointing previous outing, gets another opportunity in more conducive conditions. One of Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz and Mir will miss out, with Nawaz looking likely to make way.
Pakistan (possible): 1 Abdullah Shafique 2 Imam-ul-Haq 3 Babar Azam (capt) 4 Mohammad Rizwan (wk) 5 Saud Shakeel 6 Mohammad Nawaz/Shadab Khan 7 Iftikhar Ahmed 8 Usama Mir 8 9 Hasan Ali 10 Shaheen Shah Afridi 11 Haris Rauf
The pitch will be the same as the one used for the Australia-India game a fortnight ago, which means both sides can expect plenty of turn.
There is an excessive heat warning in Chennai tomorrow, with conditions expected to be particularly oppressive throughout the afternoon. That could mean batting first for the side winning the toss.
“We have played four matches and we are 2-2. We are confident. We accept that we did not play well in the last two matches. We will have to perform up to the mark.”
Imam-ul-Haq recognises the need for an improved performance from Pakistan
*6.20GMT, Oct 22: The stat had erroneously left out Moin Khan. This has been corrected.