Saturday, March 12, 2016
Start time 1500 local (0930GMT)
Mohammad Shahzad has been flying at the top of the order © Chris Whiteoak
A week hasn’t even passed yet in the World Twenty20, but a final is already in the offing. Well, a final of sorts.
Zimbabwe and Afghanistan face each other in a shootout for a place in the main draw, after two wins each. The Full Member, though, isn’t the favourite. Afghanistan are ranked ninth, two places above Zimbabwe, and hold the physiological advantage. Zimbabwe have never beaten Afghanistan in T20 internationals in four attempts. Zimbabwe’s performance has been sloppy this tournament, but they scrambled to wins over Hong Kong and Scotland. Afghanistan’s wins, on the other hand, have been more emphatic.
Afghanistan have hit rhythm with a batting line-up in which everybody contributes, supporting a largely varied attack. Zimbabwe are still searching for theirs. Their most in-form batsman, captain Hamilton Masakadza, has been run-out in both matches and the top order hasn’t provided bright starts for the middle order to build on. Zimbabwe’s bowling is their stronger suit, but they tend to let things drift. Zimbabwe need to step up in all departments if they are to put it across Afghanistan. Neutral fans are likely to back Afghanistan, the darlings of global events in recent years, and a side with the potential to topple Full Members.
(last five completed games most recent first)
In the spotlight
Afghanistan’s top three have been aggressive upfront with scores 68 for 0 and 79 for 1 in the first ten overs of their previous two matches, but they will face their biggest challenge in Zimbabwe’s seamers who have the craft to tie down the batsmen in the opening passages. In their two matches, Zimbabwe had reduced the opposition to 48 for 2 and 61 for 5 at the halfway stage. Mohammad Shahzad, Noor Ali Zadran and Asghar Stanikzai will have to be wary of the threat posed by the seamers as well as left-arm spinner Wellington Masakadza.
Zimbabwe have stuck to the same XI for both matches, but they may consider strengthening their batting by adding either wicketkeeper-batsman Peter Moor or allrounder Chamu Chibhabha in the middle. They may have to leave out Malcolm Waller to do that. Vusi Sibanda, who needed four stitches on his chin and did not take the field in the chase, after colliding with Hamilton while attempting a quick single on Thursday, has been passed fit to play.
Zimbabwe: (probable) 1 Hamilton Masakadza, 2 Vusi Sibanda, 3 Richmond Mutumbami (wk), 4 Sean Williams, 5 Sikandar Raza, 6 Peter Moor/Chamu Chibhabha/Malcolm Waller, 7 Elton Chigumbura, 8 Donald Tiripano, 9 Wellington Masakadza, 10 Tinashe Panyangara, 11 Tendai Chatara
Hamid Hassan replaced Amir Hamza in the Afghanistan XI that beat Hong Kong but the side may be tempted to recall the left-arm spinner on these sluggish tracks.
Afghanistan: (probable) 1 Mohammad Shahzad (wk), 2 Noor Ali Zadran, 3 Asghar Stanikzai (capt), 4 Mohammad Nabi,5 Gulbaddin Naib, 6 Shafiqullah, 7 Dawlat Zadran, 8 Najibullah Zadran, 9 Samiullah Shemwari, 10 Rashid Khan, 11 Hamid Hassan
Pitch and conditions
The Nagpur surface seemed to slow down from Tuesday to Thursday. So if the trend continues, run-scoring will be more difficult on Saturday, although Afghanistan’s batting line-up is in form. Of more interest will be the crowd. Tuesday’s opener had took place in front of a sparse crowd (182 approximately), and things went bad on Thursday, when some fans were locked out of the stadium because of a ticketing fiasco. Since this is the first match on a weekend, the turnout may increase. Saturday will also be a furnace in Nagpur with the temperature set to hit 40 degrees.
Stats and trivia
- Afghanistan have won 16 of their last 20 T20 matches, dating back to March 2014, including four victories over Zimbabwe.
- Zimbabwe have never beaten Afghanistan in a T20 and have lost eight of the 14 ODIs they have played against them.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Source: ESPN Crickinfo