The India v Afghanistan match on March 5 could have assumed an encounter of epic proportions, but a certain Shahid Afridi decided to do something about it. About 40 overs into the Pakistan innings, the home side looked in control of the game, then walked in Afridi. A target of over 100 in 10 overs was reduced to a mere 67 in 7, and 31 in 3, when after Afridi was run out for a blistering 59 off 25, Fawad Alam took charge and took Pakistan home to knock Virat Kohli‘s boys out of the Asia Cup.
But the writing is on the wall. India have simply failed to deliver in this competition, and the mere fact that the men in blue were were banking on Bangladesh to script upsets in consecutive matches just to keep India’s hopes alive probably indicates that the men in blue didn’t merit a place in Saturday’s final anyway.
At the pre-match press conference, Indian middle-order batsman Ambati Rayudu said that India had streched both Sri Lanka and Pakistan to the limit, and were unfortunate to be on the receiving end of the result “by a metre”. India’s bowling, particularly in the death overs, remains a constabnt worry, but the batting order collapses will further worry stand-in skipper Virat Kohli. In both these encounters, Indian batsmen lost their wickets at inopportune moments.
It is highly unlikely that Cheteshwar Pujara will get his opprtunity at the expense of either Ambati Rayudu or Ajinkya Rahane. Both young batsmen have shown potential, and have virtually earned an extended run with the side with one half-century each. Dinesh Karthik is the only specialist wicket-keeper in the side, so despite his costly bloopers, Karthik is certain of atleast one more match in an Indian shirt. With the openers also unlikely to be rested, Cheteshwar Pujara will have to wait a little longer in the wings.
For Afghanistan, the batsmen have looked comfortable against pace bowling throughout the tournament, but negotiating spin is one of their prominent weaknesses. The Afghanistan batsmen have looked at all sea against the Saeed Ajmal‘s and Ajantha Mendis‘s of the world, so India are likely to continue with their three-spinner combination, with the very talented Amit Mishra all set to get another chance to prove his worth.
Hamid Hassan‘s probable return in place of Dawlat Zadran is likely to boost their death bowling, while captain Mohammad Nabi would be calling for better shot selection from his batsmen, most notably the very talented Mohammad Shahzad, who has let himself down with expansive strokes at the wrong moment.
Afghanistan (likely): Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Noor Ali Zadran, Asghar Stanikzai, Nawroz Mangal, Mohammad Nabi (capt), Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shenwari, Mirwais Ashraf, Rahmat Shah, Hamid Hassan, Shapoor Zadran.