It is Super four time. Whilst we are still not yet sure who amongst Hong Kong and Pakistan will make the cut, it is confirmed that Afghanistan and Sri Lanka will kick-start proceedings in Sharjah on Saturday. It is the repeat of the opener from this year’s Asia Cup, where Afghanistan dealt the Island-nation a heavy blow.
Since then, Sri Lanka have transformed themselves for the good, with a stunning from-the-back win over Bangladesh. Afghanistan though, have not kept their foot away from the peddle, winning both their group games. So, this becomes an extremely crucial affair for Afghanistan in their pursuit of reaching the final of the competition.
Sharjah is spin-friendly. That should in itself say a lot but if you want further proof, here it is. In the two T20Is at the venue this tournament, 17 out of the 21 wickets have fallen to spin. Spinners in Sharjah have picked up an astonishing 81% wickets, averaging just 13.5, in comparison to the 63.3 that the pacers average.
On Friday, Pakistan further showed why going spin-heavy might be the best way to approach this surface. In between Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz, Babar Azam-led side picked up seven wickets, conceding just the 13 runs. With Afghanistan packing a stunning spin attack, you should probably pick a team filled with spinners.
From a batting standpoint, the average first innings score at the venue is 160. But the average first innings score stands at a high 193. So, teams batting first would have to be wary of their approach. But expect spin to play a major role.
Suggested TeamWhile you could go for the above team, you can also choose your team from Cricket.com’s Fantasy Research Centre. You can use this tool to build your team with the help of algorithms. Then, based on your preferences, the platform will guide you through creating the ideal fantasy XI.
For small leagues: Dasun Shanaka (c), Rashid Khan (vc)
For grand leagues: Charith Asalanka (c), Najibullah Zadran (vc)
Stats that matter
- Hazratullah Zazai is the leading run-scorer for Afghanistan, with 60 runs in two games, striking at 111.1. For Sri Lanka, it has been Kusal Mendis, who has scored 62 runs in two encounters, at 151.2.
- Afghanistan’s spin attack is the best in the competition, averaging a paltry 11.1, with ten wickets in the tournament. On a spinning track here in Sharjah, you would want to keep this stat dearly in your mind.
- 17 out of the 21 wickets in Sharjah have been taken by spinners, suggesting how you should go about picking your team.
- Mujeeb ur Rahman leads the bowling chart for Afghanistan with five wickets, followed by Rashid Khan with three wickets.
Grand League punts
- Roll down your memory lane, October 24, Sharjah: Bangladesh vs Sri Lanka, Charith Asalanka scored a 49-ball 80. It is Sharjah yet again, a venue that he likes. While he has scored just the one run in two innings this tournament, trusting Asalanka could really help you trump your buddies in your fantasy leagues. Asalanka averages 30.75 against spin, so take the plunge.
- We fight fire with fire and that is perhaps the only way you could top the grand leagues. Having Najibullah in your XI might be a gamble worth taking. His T20I career average of 34 and a strike-rate of 143.4 definitely should be enough to convince that it is well-worth it. The left-hander was influential in Afghanistan’s win over Bangladesh the other night, with a 17-ball 43.
Top Criclytics picks:
Afghanistan XI: Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Ibrahim Zadran, Najibullah Zadran, Karim Janat, Mohammad Nabi (c), Rashid Khan, Azmatullah Omarzai, Naveen-ul-Haq, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Fazalhaq Farooqi
Sri Lanka XI: Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Mendis (wk), Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva/ Dinesh Chandimal, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Dasun Shanaka (c), Wanindu Hasaranga, Chamika Karunaratne, Maheesh Theekshana, Asitha Fernando, Dilshan Madushanka