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World T20: Sri Lanka vs Afghanistan - Match preview
World T20: Sri Lanka vs Afghanistan - Match preview

World T20: Sri Lanka vs Afghanistan – Match preview

Kolkata, March 16 (IANS) Struggling Sri Lanka would hope to regain their touch as they launch their title defence against qualifiers Afghanistan in the World Twenty20 at the Eden Gardens here on Thursday.

Though the contest may turn out to be a cake walk for Sri Lanka, the unpredictability of the format always keeps cricket buffs guessing.

What would give Afghanistan hope is the fact that Sri Lanka have been struggling recently. They first lost a series 1-2 in India last month and then surrendered to Bangladesh and Pakistan in the Asia Cup. The islanders’ tune-up for the ongoing tournament has also been disappointing, as they succumbed to both New Zealand and Pakistan in the warm-up games.

Adding to Sri Lanka’s concerns is veteran pacer Lasith Malinga. The golden haired talisman has failed to live up to expectations in recent times and quit his post as captain just before the World T20. He is also nursing an injury in his left knee and might not be available for the Afghanistan tie.

One cannot also deny the fact that Sri Lanka are yet to find suitable replacements for players like Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara who were instrumental in winning them the trophy in Bangladesh two years back.

But the islanders’ strength lies in their batting and the likes of Tillakaratne Dilshan, Lahiru Thirimanne and Dinesh Chandimal would want to use the first six overs at the flat belter in Eden to pile on the runs and the pressure.

If they are able to post a decent total, the Lankans have the bowling unit to defend it as well, even without Malinga.

Afghanistan’s entry into the tournament is no fluke. They have battled hard every time in the qualifiers and have made it to every World T20 after 2010. The icing on the cake was when they made it to the 50-over World Cup in 2015, only two years after being handed the One-Day International status.

The Afghans remained unbeaten in the qualifiers leading up to this tournament and were able to pull out some special performances from the bag during it.

They first beat Scotland where their most trusted batsman Mohammad Shahzad struck a fluent 61. And next, they easily skipped past Hong Kong’s challenge, where Shahzad once again was instrumental with a crucial 41. In the last game Afghanistan convincingly beat Zimbabwe by 59 runs to go unscathed in the main round.

But how will the players who learnt their cricket in refugee camps, in a war-torn country cope with the likes of Dushmanta Chameera clocking 145 km/ph constantly? They might not have the answer yet but on Thursday, all eyes will be on the likes of captain Asghar Stanikzai and Shahzad who have had great runs with the bat in recent weeks.

Besides, Afghanistan have quite a bowling line-up of their own. It might not be the best in the business, but capable enough to do what it is meant to.

Besides the likes of pacers Shapoor Zadran and Dawlat Zadran, the trump card for the Afghans can be 17-year-old leg-spinner Rashid Khan, who was the most successful bowler for his team with six wickets in the qualifiers, and has picked nine wickets in the last five contests.

This is also the first time that the two sides are locking horns in a T20 International.

The Squads (from):

Afghanistan: Asghar Stanikzai (captain), Dawlat Zadran, Hamid Hassan, Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Rashid Khan, Shafiqullah Shafiq, Amir Hamza, Gulbadin Naib, Karim Sadiq, Mohammad Shahzad, Noor Ali Zadran, Samiullah Shenwari, Shapoor Zadran, Mirwais Ashraf

Sri Lanka: Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews (captain), Dinesh Chandimal, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Shehan Jayasuriya,Milinda Siriwardana, Dasun Shanaka, Chamara Kapugedera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Dushmantha Chameera, Thisara Perera, Sachithra Senanayake, Rangana Herath, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Thirimanne

Afghanistan hold edge in knockout clash for World T20 place
Afghanistan hold edge in knockout clash for World T20 place

Afghanistan hold edge in knockout clash for World T20 place

It has been barely a week into the World T20 and we already have a final to look forward to. Well, a final of sorts as a well-drilled Afghanistan side take on Zimbabwe in a shootout for a place among the World T20 elite.

The Full Member, however, does not start as favorites. Zimbabwe have been sloppy at times in the tournament so far jostling to victories over Hong Kong and Scotland while Afghanistan, ranked ninth and two places above their opponents, have posted emphatic wins under the guidance of coach Inzamam Ul-Haq.

Afghanistan have looked in solid form with a consistent batting order, particularly the top three batsmen who have been aggressive upfront with scores 68 for 0 and 79 for 1 in the first 10 overs  of their last two games. They will face their biggest challenge against a Zimbabwe bowling attack who tend to squeeze the flow of runs early on. Mohammad Shahzad, Noor Ali Zadran and Asghar Stanikzai will have to negotiate the threat posed by the seamers as well as left-arm spinner Wellington Masakadza.

Given their erratic performances so far, Zimbabwe may consider strengthening their batting with the inclusion of either wicketkeeper-batsman Peter Moor or allrounder Chamu Chibhabha in the middle order. Hamilton Masakadza, their star batsman, who has been run out in both the first two games, will have to step up in a potential final against Afghanistan. The good news is Vusi Sibanda, who needed four stitches on his chin, and did not take the field in the chase, after colliding with Masakadza while attempting a quick single on Thursday, has been passed fit to play.

Probable Lineups:

Zimbabwe: Hamilton Masakadza, Vusi Sibanda, Richmond Mutumbami (wk), Sean Williams, Sikandar Raza, Chamu Chibhabha/Malcolm Waller, Elton Chigumbura, Donald Tiripano, Wellington Masakadza, Tinashe Panyangara, Tendai Chatara

Afghanistan: Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Noor Ali Zadran, Asghar Stanikzai (capt), Mohammad Nabi, Gulbaddin Naib, Shafiqullah, Dawlat Zadran, Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shemwari, Rashid Khan, Hamid Hassan/Amir Hamza

Shehzad
Shehzad
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Afghanistan beat Scotland by 14 runs in World T20

Nagpur, March 8 (IANS) Afghanistan defeated Scotland by 14 runs in the second match of the opening day of the World T20 against Scotland at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium here on Tuesday.

Chasing a considerable target of 171 runs, Scotland only managed 156/5.

Scotland started strongly posting an 84-run first wicket stand between George Munsey (41) and Kyle Coetzer (40). But both the openers departed in the space of three balls that scuttled their ambitions.

Middle order batsman Matt Machan (36) tried to keep Scotland in the hunt but without any support from the other end, his effort went in vain.

Rashid Khan (2/28) was Afghanistan’s best bowler.

Earlier, a fine half-century from Mohammad Shahzad (61) guided Afghanistan to a competitive 170/5.

Shahzad gave his side a perfect start after they won the toss, smashing five fours and three sixes in an entertaining innings in their Group B match. He finished with 61 from 39 balls, a crucial contribution in setting Scotland and imposing target of 171.

Captain Asghar Stanikzai offered good support with 55 not out from 50 balls. But he was contained in the late overs by some tight bowling from Alasdair Evans (1-24).

Brief scores: Afghanistan 170/5 (Mohammad Shahzad 61), Scotland 156/5 (George Munsey 41)

Afghan team will face a hurdle against Zimbabwe
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Preview: War torn Afghanistan keen to qualify for Super 10

Overview: 

Afghanistan prepared well for 2016 World T20 qualifier. They have played 16 T20I and have won 13 matches which was the best win-loss ratio of any team in the world since then.

But, their opponents in those 16 matches were Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, Scotland, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, Oman and Zimbabwe. None of these teams featured in ICC’s top 10 ranking.

Former Pakistan batsman Inzamam-ul-Haq coached  Afghanistan did not get a chance to play against a single higher ranking team as ICC’s cricket calendar overlooked them.

However, Afghanistan failed to qualify for Asia Cup as they lost to UAE in the final. A chance in the Asia Cup might gave them a chance to play with strong team like India and good bowling side like Pakistan recently That Afghanistan haven’t had a chance to play any of the top sides is mostly down to the way the cricket calendar is structured, and partly down to their own habit of fluffing their lines at important moments. But Afghanistan started the tournament as the favourite for qualifying for Asia Cup.

Key player to watch: Afghanistan are heavily filled with the pace attack. They have talented bowlers like Shapoor Zadran and Hamid Hasan. So, at Indian pitches, they will he instrumental for Afghanistan’s qualification for Super 10.

Strength and weakness: Afghanistan have the edge, both in terms of genuine pace, with an attack comprising Dawlat Zadran, and the recently recalled new-ball duo of Shapoor Zadran and Hamid Hassan, as well as spin, with options in Amir Hamza’s left-arm darts and Rashid Khan’s low-slung leg breaks.

Afghanistan’s batting, however, remains something of a weakness, with their line-up often unable to recover from early setbacks. Scotland’s best chance, therefore, is to strike with the new ball and put the middle order under pressure.

Expectations: It is expected that Afganistan dnZimbabwe will have an intense battle from group A. But in recent time, Afganistan have defeated Zimbabwe in back to back three matches T20 series.

Afghanistan’s qualification for super 10 will bring joy to a war-torn country of South East Asia and Afghan community in India.

Coach: Inzamam-ul-Haq

 

Afghanistan vs Scotland
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Afghanistan to take on Scotland on the first day of qualifying round

Big Picture

The qualifying round for ICC World T20 in India will start from March 8 at Nagpur. Afghanistan and Scotland will lock horns for the second match of the evening at Jamtha Stadium, Nagpur.

Both Afghanistan and Scotland qualified for preliminary group competition in India after playing the World T20 qualifying round in Ireland and Scotland. Host Scotland were joint-winners of the tournament with Netherlands. Afghanistan is currently ranked 9th in ICC T20 ranking chart while Scotland ranked 11th. Afghanistan has played three World T20 tournaments consecutively since 2010 so far and Scotland made their debut in 2007 and last played the 2009 edition. So this will be their third appearance.

Afghanistan got plenty of match practice against Zimbabwe in Africa and in UAE in the build up to the World T20. They also fought well in Asia Cup qualifying round. The war-torn country is trying to rebuild their nation with cricket as one of their media. So, a World T20 berth in super 10 will bring joy to the country while Scotland’s World T20 berth will give them a chance to play the World T20 for the third time after 2007 and 2009.

Strength and weakness

As per the recent form, Afghanistan will have an edge over the Scots. The Afganistan team have got batsmen like Mohammad Nabi and Asghar Stanikzai who can single-handedly change the course of the match. Scotland lost their first warm-up match to Netherlands. They have batsmen Preston Mommsen and Kyle Coetzer, but the Afghans with bowlers like Shapoor Zadran and Hamid Hassan are favourite for their qualifier campaign.

But, talking about bowlers, Scotland has Josh Davey, who took everybody by surprise with his pace and swing bowling in 2015 World Cup as he was leading the chart of highest wicket takers till their campaign got over in the group phase. Davey produced a shocker against tournament finalist New Zealand  by taking of wickets.

Pitch conditions and weather 

However, a lot will depend on how the pitch will behave as Nagpur pitch is famous for high-scoring encounters. It is expected that the pitch will be a sporting one where both teams will have a chance to exploit the conditions. But, there will be a dew factor as the evening tilts towards night. So, winning the toss electing to field first will be a good idea.

What is at stake?

Both teams will play for a berth in Super 10.

This match will ring the bell for the 6th edition of World T20 2016. An intense battle is expected to happen for a two berths.

Afghanistan Squad: Asghar Stanikzai (capt), Noor Ali Zadran, Mohammad Shahzad, Usman Ghani, Mohammad Nabi, Karim Sadiq, Shafiqullah, Rashid Khan, Amir Hamza, Dawlat Zadran, Shapoor Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Samiullah Shenwari, Najibullah Zadran, Hamid Hassan

Scotland Squad: Preston Mommsen (c), Kyle Coetzer (VC), Alasdair Evans, Calum MacLeod, Con de Lange, Gavin Main, George Munsey, Josh Davey, Mark Watt, Matt Machan, Matthew Cross, Michael Leask, Richie Berrington, Rob Taylor, Safyaan Sharif

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