Pakistan has turned around their struggling World Cup campaign with couple of brilliant wins against South Africa and New Zealand. Now Pakistan are a serious contenders to the final four spot if they win their remaining. The turnaround was due to clarity in thinking and better team selection. Selection of Haris Sohail ahead of Shoaib Malik was a master stroke and the left hander has been brilliant so far. The bowling attack also has been performing much better with Shaheen Shah Afridi in the XI.
Pakistan still have some concerns with the opening combination as both Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq haven’t been able to convert their starts to a big one but with Babar Azam in brilliant form followed by Haris Sohail their middle order has been doing very well. The game against Afghanistan is an important one for Pakistan in terms of their qualification for the semi finals. The team combination is expected to remain the same and don’t think there will be any changes in the XI which beat New Zealand.
Afghanistan though haven’t won a single game in this competition yet. They came close against India but again they were comfortably beaten by Bangladesh in their next game. Afghanistan though will take lots of confidence from the practice game they played against the same opposition which they won. They would need more contribution from the pacers and also the top order batting if they want to challenge a team like Pakistan who have been in great form recently.
Head to Head:
Pakistan have played only 3 ODIs against Afghanistan and have won all three but things haven’t been that simple between the two sides. The last game they played each other was a nail biter with Pakistan just getting over the line in the last over.
Fakhar Zaman (Pakistan): A dry wicket and hot weather conditions mean that Afghanistan will open with Mujeeb Ur Rahman with the new ball. Mujeeb has been brilliant with the ball and with Fakhar being a good player of spin it will be important for Pakistan if he gets off to a good start. Pakistan are going to face a lot of spin today and the openers will be crucial in providing a good start.
Shaheen Afridi (Pakistan): Afridi missed out on few games at the start of the tournament due to some muddled selection by the Pakistan team management. Afridi should has been brilliant since his comeback and his spell against New Zealand especially drawing lots of praise. He will be crucial in getting breakthrough with the new ball against a struggling Afghanistan top order.
Mujeeb Ur Rahman (Afghanistan): Mujeeb is expected to take the new ball against Pakistan once again due to the conditions expected at Leeds. He will be hoping to provide similar start to what he has able to provide in the game against India. Pakistan top four are strong and his spell will be important to get some early breakthrough.
Hashmatullah Shahidi (Afghanistan): Afghanistan batting has been struggling and has not been able to be consistent in this tournament. The wicket ate Leeds will suit Afghanistan batter and Shahidi scored a brilliant unbeaten 74 against the same opposition in the warm up game and he would want to repeat the same in this all important game.
What they said?
“Pakistan is our neighbour country, so it’s very good for us to play a lot of cricket with [them]. Also if you play a lot of cricket, it’s good for country’s relationship. So I’m hoping in the upcoming years we’ll play a lot of cricket with them,” Said Afghanistan Skipper Gulbadin Naib
“Look we are not thinking about the different scenarios of the other results. We just want to focus on our games and we are looking ahead only on a match-by-match basis. Tomorrow we have to play Afghanistan and win and after that we will begin preparations for Bangladesh,” Said Haris Sohail about the different qualification scenarios
Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Haris Sohail, Sarfaraz Ahmed (c&wk), Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir, Shaheen Afridi
Gulbadin Naib (c), Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Asghar Afghan/Hazratullah Zazai, Mohammad Nabi, Samiullah Shinwari, Najibullah Zadran, Ikram Ali Khil (wk), Rashid Khan, Dawlat Zadran, Mujeeb Ur Rahman
The cricketing relationship between the two teams had strained in recent times and that makes these contests interesting. Afghanistan Skipper Gulbadin Naib wants the relationship between the two sides mended for better cricketing relations in the future. In terms of cricket both these teams had a very close game in the Asia games and also the warm up game at the start of the tournament. With the wicket expected to be dry and with soaring temperatures in England the Afghanistan spinners will come into play but you would expect Pakistan with their recent form should be able to see of their challenge.