Sharjah: Afghanistan are used to coming into World Cup matches as the underdogs. But having qualified directly for the ‘Super 12’ by virtue of their ranking, they now boast of some classy players in their ranks.
Scotland have never won a T20 international against Afghanistan in six attempts, but they may fancy their chances this time around after defeating Bangladesh in the Group stage.
While it will be labelled as the clash of the underdogs, the ‘Super 12’ match between the two would certainly have its share of enthralling and entertainment moments, given that both teams want to propel themselves to the next level. And what better platform than the ICC T20 World Cup!
But winning against a quality Afghanistan spin attack is easier said than done, even though the country is in turmoil and there was uncertainly around the team coming for the mega event.
Scotland batter Calum MacLeod agreed that with three world-class spinners in their ranks, Afghanistan is a force to reckon with. “Everyone understands the attack that Afghanistan have got with three world-class spinners in there,” said MacLeod.
He added that Scotland’s strategy would be to “put the pressure back on them”. “The biggest thing is you have to try and put the pressure back on them. Like all the top-class teams that you play against, if you let the bowlers just bowl at you, their skills will be too good for you over a period, so I think you have to find a method of putting the pressure back on them, whether that be with sweeping or coming down the wicket, whatever your method is about it. You’ve got to stick to it and be pretty disciplined,” he added.
Scotland come in with a well-settled and confident side. In each game they have had different players standing up to be counted. The biggest change for them will be to adjust to the surfaces of Sharjah, since they have played all their games in Oman so far.
Afghanistan haven’t had much preparation in the lead up to the tournament. However, they were emphatic in their warm-up against West Indies, when they posted 189/5 before keeping the Windies to 133/5. Their challenge will be consistency: Against West Indies their openers made half-centuries; against South Africa they were both dismissed for ducks.
Afghanistan skipper Mohammad Nabi, said: “(Preparation) is not that ideal, but for the last one and a half weeks, from when the team arrived to now, we had two warm-up games and around one week practice sessions. It’s enough for those cricketers playing cricket all over the world, (we have) five, six, seven players playing different franchise cricket for the last six months, so we are in touch with cricket… Adjusting to the conditions, gathering with the team and the composition of the team is more important.”
Possible Scotland XI: George Munsey, Kyle Coetzer (c), Matthew Cross (wk), Richie Berrington, Calum MacLeod, Michael Leask, Chris Greaves, Mark Watt, Josh Davey, Safyaan Sharif, Brad Wheal.
Possible Afghanistan XI: Hazratullah Zazai, Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi (c), Asghar Afghan, Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Hamid Hassan, Naveen ul Haq.