Put aside all the drama, the Super 12s is here, and we have the two confirmed teams – England and Afghanistan – taking on each other. While it is not the tournament opener, it is a clash that could really open a can of worms for Group 1, considering how Sri Lanka too are in the group now. Let us focus on these two teams, England and Afghanistan.
Not a big rivalry going on but it is a side that Afghanistan would be eyeing to win, just to prove the world that they shouldn’t be considered lightly. With the Asian side, it is well-known secret that they are going to pack their side with some quality spinners, can the Three Lions find a way through?
England open their competition at the Optus Stadium, one they know pretty well now, having played a T20I here very recently against arch-rivals, Australia. Only two T20Is have been played at the venue, with one low-scoring encounter before a high-scoring thriller earlier in the year. While in one, the team batting first won, in the other, the team chasing, making it extremely tricky for a captain to choose if he wins the toss.
In the last two years, across 14 innings, the average first innings score here has been 175 but teams need to score more than 180, if they stand a chance of winning. Pacers have a significant advantage at the venue over the spinners, with 64 wickets, against the 23 wickets for the spinners. On an average, the pacers pick up 4.6 wickets/innings here, suggesting there is only one way to go: trust your pacers.
While you could go for the above team, you also have the option of choosing 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.
Stats that matter
- Dawid Malan’s form has been nothing short of exceptional this year, the southpaw has scored 453 runs, averaging a strong 34.84 while striking thunderously at 142.90. Not to forget, his first 15-ball strike-rate this year has been 138.3, putting aside all the criticism from last year.
- Across all T20s this year, only one batter has scored more runs in this English setup than their skipper Jos Buttler, Alex Hales. In between Hales and Buttler, they have scored 2834 runs, showing how England’s top-order is placed. Hales has scored 1489 T20 runs this year, with a strike-rate of 158.7, while skipper Buttler has scored 1345 runs, striking at 153.5.
- Fazalhaq Farooqi has been a threat with the ball this year in T20Is, with 17 wickets, the leading wicket-taker for Afghanistan this year, averaging just 19.4. Interestingly, his economy rate too has been outstanding, conceding just 6.8 RPO.
- On the batting front for Afghanistan, Najibullah Zadran is a key batter, with the left-hander having scored 327 runs this year, with a high strike-rate of 149.3.
Grand League Punts
- While we did talk about Malan, Rashid, Najibullah and Buttler, there is one batter who has stood out over the last few months for Afghanistan – Rahmanullah Gurbaz. The opener, who is also their wicket-keeper, has a high-score of 84, with 297 runs in 14 innings this year, striking at 136.9. While he was carried off the pitch, expect the opener to be fit in time for the clash against England.
- Sam Curran, what do we make of him? Ahead of Pakistan tour, it was a puzzling question for England, one that they desperately needed an answer to, and in the coming days, it was all answered. Curran is England’s key all-rounder, with an unbeaten 33 in the earlier warm-up game against Pakistan. Not to forget, the left-arm seamer has picked up 12 wickets in the year.
Top Criclytics predictions
England: Alex Hales, Jos Buttler (c), Dawid Malan, Ben Stokes, Liam Livingstone, Moeen Ali, Harry Brook, Sam Curran/Chris Jordan, Mark Wood, Adil Rashid, David Willey
Afghanistan: Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Ibrahim Zadran, Darwish Rasooli, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi (c), Rashid Khan, Azmatullah Omarzai, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Fareed Ahmad Malik, Fazalhaq Farooqi