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Friday, Aug 23, 2019

ICC World Cup 2019, Pakistan vs Afghanistan: Top five player battles - Shaheen Afridi threat looms

After two back-to-back wins over South Africa and New Zealand have brought the side back into the contention for the semi-final.

cricket Updated: Jun 29, 2019 10:15 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Pakistan's Shaheen Shah Afridi will be Pakistan’s key player.
Pakistan's Shaheen Shah Afridi will be Pakistan’s key player.(AFP)

Pakistan cricket team has displayed how time can change fortunes in this World Cup. After suffering three defeats and a draw in their first five games, everyone counted Sarfaraz Ahmed’s side out of the competition. But two back-to-back wins over South Africa and New Zealand have brought the side back into the contention for the semifinal, and the contest has now really opened up. Luckily for them, their next contest will be against an already eliminated Afghanistan, who will be coming out on the field to salvage some pride after losing seven straight games in the tournament.

Here are five key player battles between Sri Lanka and Afghanistan:

Babar Azam vs Rashid Khan

Babar Azam has been the best batsman for Pakistan in the World Cup. The batsman has scored 333 runs in 6 matches at an average of 66.60 at a strike rate of 85.17. His match-winning ton against the Kiwis further has raised his stature as a threatening opposition to deal with. But, Azam’s weakness has always been spin bowling and Rashid Khan can be a perfect bowler to set up his dismissal. Azam has faced 11 deliveries from Khan in the ODIs last year and he was dismissed once in them, scoring just 7 runs. This will be the key battle in the match.

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Fakhar Zaman vs Mujeeb ur Rahman

Mujeeb ur Rahman has started the attack for Afghanistan with the new ball in the past two matches and he will look to trouble In the Asia cup fixture between the two teams, Rahman had dismissed the left-handed batsman in just six balls for a duck. Zaman has not been able to convert starts into big totals in the tournament, and his confidence will be low. Facing off the in-form off-spinner, who picked up three wickets in the previous game, could become tricky for Zaman.

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Haris Sohail vs Mohammad Nabi

Haris Sohail has now scored two consecutive fifties since he has been given the chance to be in the playing XI in place of Shoaib Malik. The left-handed batsman has solidified Pakistan’s wobbly middle-order, and has given the side a much-needed boost. Mohammad Nabi, who has been the best allrounder figure for Afghanistan in the tournament, would enjoy the contest in the middle overs, against Sohail, who has scored quick fire runs in the previous two games.

Gulbadin Naib vs Shaeen Afridi

Shaheen Afridi completely dismantled New Zealand’s top order with a tremendous first-over in the previous match. His opening spell against the Kiwis has increased his reputation in the tournament, as the opposition teams have realised what the bowler can do in overcast conditions on a swinging surface. Skipper Gulbadin Naib’s decision to promote himself up the top has worked and Afghanistan have been able to get off to good starts in the tournament. Afridi can change the trend.

Asghar Afghan vs Mohammad Amir

The vastly experienced Asghar Afghan will have to bear the brunt of swinging ace Mohammad Amir, who has been in tremendous form at this World Cup.The left-armer will enjoy the challenge, bowling to former skipper, who has struggled to regain form for a while now. If Afghan can battle through the seam attack from Amir, then, he could be one dangerous opposition in the middle order for the side.

First Published: Jun 29, 2019 09:27 IST

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