Both teams come into the Super 12s on the back of impressive performances
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.
Afghanistan WWWTW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
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
Stats and trivia
- Calum MacLeod once took 49 runs off Rashid Khan in an ODI – the second most any batter has taken against Rashid in an ODI. MacLeod had faced just 31 balls from Rashid in that game.
- In six T20Is played between these two teams so far, Afghanistan have won each time, though they haven’t played each other in this format since 2016.
“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.
Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo