Tue, 30 Nov 2021

Afghanistan the favourites, but Scotland have momentum

25 Oct 2021, 00:43 GMT+10

Big Picture

Coming into the second stage of a T20 World Cup already means you've had quite a journey, from succeeding in the qualifiers against tough competition, and then succeeding again in the first round against tougher competition, before you get to mix with the big boys.

Afghanistan know that journey, having been part of the Associate cricket world not too long ago. Scotland have lived that journey, and now find themselves with a chance to make a further statement if they can beat the team that's been the poster child for rising through the ranks. While Afghanistan will be the favoured side in this contest, especially because of their bowling strength, Scotland have the edge in preparation. They've had three games to test their resilience as well as flex their might, and are coming into the Super 12s as primed as can be.

On the other hand, though Afghanistan did play two warm-up games, they haven't had the easiest preparation, and had visa issues before the squad assembled too. At the back of the minds of all the squad members will be the volatile situation back home. Whether that becomes a burden that stifles, or hardens their resolve to provide some cheer to fans in Afghanistan in grim times, we'll know soon.

Form guide

Afghanistan WWWTW (last five completed matches, most recent first)

Scotland WWWLW

In the spotlight

He was appointed captain in rather chaotic circumstances, when Rashid Khan stepped down minutes after Afghanistan's squad was announced, but Mohammad Nabi was a leader - and former captain in any case - in the group earlier too. He was on point as bowler and captain in their second warm-up game, against West Indies, bowling his four overs in a row first up and proving to be nigh unplayable. Nabi bowled 22 dot balls out of 24, and conceded only two singles, taking 3 for 2. In Sharjah, where spinners have received purchase, he could be crucial with ball, with his power-hitting and his on-field generalship.

Josh Davey has been Scotland's enforcer and controller both, so far in the T20 World Cup. The right-arm seamer has hit his rhythm well, troubling batsmen with accuracy and movement. He hasn't always had a smooth ride in a career that began in 2010, but at 31, he has the experience without having lost his zing, to hit the sweet spot of effectiveness. With Afghanistan's batting being top-heavy, Davey's overs up front have the potential to give Scotland good leverage in the contest if he can strike early. He's already taken eight wickets in three games, conceding runs at less than a run a ball.

Team news

Afghanistan's opening combination of Hazratullah Zazai and Mohammad Shahzad showed how devastating they could be when a team missed its lengths, as West Indies found out in the warm-up game between the two. Their pairing at the top is what Afghanistan will rely on while batting. The bowling is already well manned with Nabi, Rashid and Mujeeb ur Rahman almost guaranteeing 12 high-quality overs.

Afghanistan (probable): 1 Hazratullah Zazai, 2 Mohammad Shahzad (wk), 3 Rahmanullah Gurbaz, 4 Najibullah Zadran, 5 Asghar Afghan, 6 Mohammad Nabi (capt), 7 Karim Janat, 8 Gulbadin Naib, 9 Rashid Khan, 10 Mujeeb Ur Rahman, 11 Naveen ul Haq

Scotland's progress so far has been of the best kind, because it's not been overly dependent on one single individual. Different people have stood up at different times, which gives the team a well-rounded look. They will look to Davey, the pacy Brad Wheal and the canny Mark Watt to rein Afghanistan in, while the likes of Richie Berrington and George Munsey will have to marshal the batting against a potent attack.

Scotland (probable): 1 George Munsey, 2 Kyle Coetzer (capt), 3 Matthew Cross (wk), 4 Richie Berrington, 5 Calum MacLeod, 6 Michael Leask, 7 Chris Greaves, 8 Mark Watt, 9 Josh Davey, 10 Safyaan Sharif, 11 Brad Wheal

Pitch and conditions

While the pitches at Sharjah, during the IPL and the first round of the T20 World Cup were slow and difficult to get big scores on, the match between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka a day before this one, suggested that this was not always the norm. If the pitch does play better, the conditions swing towards batters because of the small boundaries. This is a night game, so dew might also come into play more.

Stats and trivia


"The fans are really waiting for the games because the only happiness in Afghanistan is cricket. If we do well in the tournament and win games, there will be lots of smiles on faces."

Mohammad Nabi on what a good show by Afghanistan will mean to those back home.

"Just because we're now into the Super 12s, I don't think that changes much for us. I think we'll come and play the aggressive type of cricket we want to play"

Calum MacLeod promises Scotland will continue to entertain.

AfghanistanScotlandAfghanistan vs ScotlandICC Men's T20 World Cup

Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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