Pakistan are the higher-rated side, but with their loss to India and with fantastic two-in-two for Afghanistan, the odds look entirely even in this Asia Cup Super Four fixture.
Meanwhile, away from political tensions, the two teams will renew their rivalry when they take on each other in their Super Four clash of Asia Cup 2018 in Abu Dhabi. The two sides have had slightly contrasting fortunes in their path to the Super Four. Afghanistan posted convincing wins against both Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to progress to the next stage, while Pakistan slid to an eight-wicket loss versus arch-rivals India.
Afghanistan looks look even more formidable than usual, and make them a tremendous force. Furthermore, their fielding have been of the top class, adding another significant dimension to Afghanistan’s already excellent game. However, one concern will be the fitness status of Asghar Afghan, their captain, who has picked up a groin injury.
Up next for Afghanistan are Pakistan, ranked fifth and the holders of the ICC Champions Trophy. Both Afghanistan’s scalps so far are teams higher on the ranking list, but Pakistan are a dominant unit.
Pakistan head coach, Mickey Arthur, who criticised his team’s performance will want his boys to showcase better cricket in Asia Cup Super Four fixtures.
The team, regarding personnel, is brilliant. Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman are top picks as openers, and in Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik and captain Ahmed himself, there’s enough in the tank there.
The bowling unit looks as impressive as ever. Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Usman Shinwari and Faheem Ashraf the main pacers and Shadab Khan the outstanding spin frontman.
It’s a superb team, capable of great things. But so are Afghanistan, and this should be an outstanding contest between two units with great talent and ability.
Pitch & Conditions
With the Abu Dhabi stadium expected to be baked in sunshine, both teams would most likely bat first. Pacers have also found some assistance under lights, especially in Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi is not too different from Dubai, in that it’s going to be hot and clammy. Two games have been played in Abu Dhabi so far, Afghanistan featuring in both, and they went along similar lines: an excellent first-innings score from Afghanistan and poor chases from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
With Afghanistan emerging triumphant against Bangladesh, they may resist the temptation to make changes to their line-up.
Probable XI: Mohammad Shahzad, Ihsanullah Janat, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Asghar Afghan, Samiullah Shenwari, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan, Aftab Alam, Mujeeb Ur Rahman
Mohammad Amir bowled zestful spells in the game against India, but this year he has bagged just three scalps at an average of 87 in ODIs. So there is a chance that Pakistan could leave him out. As Shadab Khan is down with a niggle, Mohammad Nawaz may come into the equation.
Probable XI: Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed, Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Usman Khan
Both Pakistan and Afghanistan have equal chances of taking home the game. Although Pakistan have a strong outfit, Afghanistan have played a good brand of cricket.
Considering their recent results, Afghanistan have a slight nod ahead of Pakistan in Asia Cup Super Four fixture at Abu Dhabi.