Afghanistan are ranked 7th in the ICC rankings for teams in T20Is and a win in the first T20I against a timid opposition was rather inevitable. Are the Irish that easy to trounce or have the Afghans have stepped their game up a notch? The latter seems to be a viable answer. 173 wasn't by any means a walk in the park but a quick-fire 42 off 21 deliveries from Najibullah Zadran kept Afghanistan 11-runs ahead of the DLS par score. This, after Rashid Khan's 3 for 22 restricted Ireland to 172.
The teams have met 16 times in T20Is and Afghanistan have an overwhelming record against the Green-Whites. They've won 13 and lost only 3. At the Greater Noida Sports Complex Ground, Afghanistan lead the head-to-head battle 4-0. Out of the last 12 T20Is played between the two sides, the Afghans have won 11.
Four T20Is have been played at this venue and the average batting scores here are a high 189 in the first innings and188 in the second. Clearly, the pitch doesn't change much through the course of a game. Chasing and defending have both yielded 2 positive results each.
Stat: Afghanistan have won 69.5 % of their games batting first.
Leg-spinners are the most effective breed on this wicket and we certainly know why. A certain Rashid has picked 12 wickets with his career-best figures of 5/3 also coming at this venue.
A good contest between bat and ball is a certainty. Therefore, it'll be sensible to pick a good mix of batters, bowlers and all-rounders.
He's a decent bat, he's an absolute star with the ball and he glides on the field. Look no further beyond Rashid for your fantasy cricket captain. The all-rounder was at his absolute best in the 1st T20I, finishing with figures of 3 for 22, whilst Mujeeb-Ur-Rahman and Shapoor Zadran conceded over 9 runs per over.
Against Ireland, the leg-spinner goes berserk. He's picked 32 wickets against them (including 2 five-fors and 2 fours-fors) and his strike-rate is a mind-boggling 5.92.
Hazratullah Zazai has been Afghanistan's leading run-getter over the last 14 months. He's scored 368 runs at 36.8 in 11 games, striking at over 165. Ireland has also been Zazai's favourite opponents. The left-handed smashed a 162 not out against them last year and he'll be a player to keep an eye in the second T20I as well.
From the Irish corner, Paul Stirling will be the man to watch out for. He smashed 60 off 41 deliveries in the first T20I before being dismissed by 'you know who' - Rashid. Stirling's numbers against Afghanistan are very impressive. In 15 games, the opener scored 531 runs at 35.40 at a strike-rate of 147.09.
Boyd Rankin can cause a lot of damage with the ball. Although he went wicketless in the 1st T20I, Rankin will be Andy Balbirnie's, main man. Since 2019, Rankin has picked 24 wickets and has conceded at an economy rate of 7.34. Can he dismantle the Afghani top-order? He sure has the quality.
You might also want to check out the following graphs which show how the player performances have varied based on the toss over the last couple of years.
If Afghanistan bat first
If Ireland bat first
Looking at these graphs, one gets an idea of how many fantasy points a batsman gets compared to the number of deliveries faced per dismissal and how many fantasy points a bowler gets compared to the number of overs they bowl per innings.
Please note that all fantasy points are per the points system used on the FanFight App.
When batting first (Afghanistan and Ireland)
Hazratullah tends to bat with lesser pressure when Afghanistan bat first. He’s a boundary hitter and can end up earning you plenty of fantasy points. Rahmanullah Gurbaz, his opening partner also does well when the team bats first. Ireland’s top three are expected to do the majority of the scoring. The troika of Stirling, Kevin O’Brien and Andy Balbirnie have the best (Balls Per Dismissal and Points Per Innings) numbers.
When batting second (Afghanistan and Ireland)
Mohammad Nabi is a finisher par excellence and he’s proved to be a better pick when Afghanistan bat second. Nabi’s all-round abilities make him a strong fantasy pick. The top 3 again have sprightly numbers when Ireland chase. Will they come good against the Afghani attack?
When bowling first (Afghanistan and Ireland)
Rashid is undoubtedly the best in the world and scores a minimum of 25 points when his team bowls first. Mohammad Nabi is next on the list with Gulbadin Naib not far behind. Craig Young, Boyd Rankin and Gareth Delany are nifty operators when Ireland bowl first. George Dockrell puts a check on the scoring rate but as far as wickets are concerned, he doesn’t churn out enough points.
When bowling second (Afghanistan and Ireland)
Shapoor Zadran and Rashid have proven to be the game changers when the Afghans defend. Dockrell gets his A-game out when the Irish lads defend. Simi Singh picked 2 important wickets in the first T20I and also kept a check on the run-rate.