After handing Scotland a drubbing, Afghanistan finished second best against Pakistan, but put up a good fight. In a lot of firsts, Namibia, who made it to the T20 World Cup for the very first time, have not just made it to the Super 12s for the first time, but have also registered their first win at this stage in their very first attempt. They are now on a three-match winning streak but will have their biggest test of the tournament when they play Afghanistan in Abu Dhabi on Sunday (October 31).
In the two matches Afghanistan have played so far, their dependence on their spin duo of Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Rashid Khan has been brought to the fore.
Out of the 15 wickets picked up by the Afghanistan bowlers this series, 12 have been picked up between Rashid and Mujeeb alone, while the rest of the bowing attack have been below par to say the least. In both the matches, Afghanistan have used just the five bowlers. Perhaps a couple of overs from Gulbadin Naib would certainly not hurt. They missed their sixth bowler against Pakistan and will want to rectify that going into this match.
There is a bit of concern regarding’s Mujeeb’s fitness as he limped off after his four-over spell against Pakistan, accompanied by the physio. It would be a huge blow for Afghanistan, and a lucky break for Namibia, if he doesn’t take field on Sunday.
If Mujeeb were to miss out, Afghanistan do not have any ore spinners left on the bench. They will have to get in an extra batsman or an extra pacer.
A case for Fareed Ahmad
There’s little doubt that the left-arm seamers have been the x-factors in this edition of the World Cup. Shaheen Afridi proved it and so has Namibia’s Ruben Trumpelmann. In Abu Dhabi, more than 26% of the wickets have fallen to left-arm pacers, which is the second-best bowling type after tight-arm pacers (40.90%).
Moreover, the left-arm fast bowlers have a better balls per wicket ratio (15.6) and runs per wicket ratio (18) compared to the right-arm quicks for whom the corresponding numbers are 17.3 and 18.3 respectively.
Other than Trumpelmann, Namibia have Jan Frylinck and JJ Smit who bowl left-arm seam and could very well be a threat here. Afghanistan too should do their bit to negate the threat. Getting Fareed in could be one such move.
Batting a concern for Namibia?
Among the active teams in the T20 World Cup, only West Indies have a lower run-rate (6.3) than Namibia (6.6). Especially when a team is asked to set a total, Namibia’s slow and cautious approach might backfire. Their top-order (1-3) too have been below par in the tournament, scoring at just 5.2 an over, which has led to them not scoring more than 30-31 on an average in the first six overs.
Afghanistan will prove to be a tougher test for them given Mujeeb’s prowess in the powerplay. They will have to figure out a way to negotiate him and put up a decent powerplay score, which will set the tone for the rest of the innings.
Afghanistan, on the other hand, played fearless cricket against Pakistan with them not getting bogged down despite wickets tumbling. Their approach has therefore taken them to the top when it comes to the batting run-rate and are likely to go in with the same approach in this game too.
What’s at stake for both sides?
Afghanistan could be among the dark horses who can make it to the semi-final, but for Namibia, it is a chance to prove that they can emerge victorious against a top side. They have already brushed aside Test-playing Ireland in the first round, but if they were to beat Afghanistan it would be a bigger fish.
Afghanistan may have beaten Scotland convincingly, Namibia is the only ‘easy’ match for them as they will take on New Zealand and India after this. A win over Namibia could see them needing just one win out of two to see them through, given that they have a significantly high net run-rate.
For the Eagles, they could perhaps consider solidifying their batting line-up with Stephan Baard coming into the side in place of Jan Nicol Loftie Eaton. They have already had three opening combinations in four matches and it is high time they settle down as far as their top-order is concerned.
Likely XI: Craig Williams, Zane Green (wk), Gerhard Erasmus (c), David Wiese, Michael van Lingen, JJ Smit, Jan Frylinck, Pikky Ya France, Stephan Baard/Jan Nicol Loftie-Eaton, Ruben Trumpelmann, Bernard Scholtz
Afghanistan perhaps look the best they have looked in any world event. Their aim will be to brush aside Namibia just as easily as Mohammad Nabi brushed aside the question relating to unrest back home, following the Pakistan defeat. Barring their sixth bowling conundrum, Afghanistan do not have much to address against Namibia.
Likely XI: Hazratullah Zazai, Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi (c), Asghar Afghan, Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan, Karim Janat/Fareed Ahmad, Naveen-ul-Haq, Mujeeb Ur Rahman