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 Match Preview – Afghanistan vs Namibia, ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021/22, 27th Match, Group 2

Match Preview – Afghanistan vs Namibia, ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021/22, 27th Match, Group 2


Preview

Associate nation will be keen to pull off another upset

Big picture

Namibia added another historic day to their journey with a win against Scotland in their first Super 12s game. In many ways, that was one of their easier games, if only because it was the third time they were playing Scotland in October. From here on in, life won’t be as familiar. Their next opponents, Afghanistan, are the only team in the group that had any proximity to the Associate scene over the last decade. Even then, the last time these teams played each other was in 2017.

In a tangible sense, that would make Sunday very hard on Namibia, especially, the quality of spin that Afghanistan have, in conditions that favour them. But from a more optimistic lens, it’s a chance for them to try and spring some surprises of their own. They did have to beat a Test-playing nation in Ireland to get this far in the World Cup, and beating another one will be a feat they’ll look forward to.

The hurdle is that Afghanistan have some big-ticket T20 names in their ranks – players who have traveled the world and showed their wares, particularly in the UAE, and who ran the best team of the World Cup so far close on Friday. That loss against Pakistan came swiftly and crushingly in the end, and the fact that they’ll have no time to dwell on it is a potential advantage for them.

Form guide

Afghanistan LWWWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
Namibia WWWLW

In the spotlight

Hazratullah Zazai has two ducks and two 40-plus scores since Afghanistan arrived in the UAE for the World Cup. The latest of those ducks came against Pakistan and forced Afghanistan’s top order to take a more risky approach at the start, resulting in a sub-par powerplay in which they lost four wickets. His exploits as opener are key for Afghanistan to set up more challenging totals.
JJ Smit has quietly been one of Namibia’s most valuable players in the tournament so far. In their last five matches, Smit has batted four times without being out, and has done a tidy holding job as first-change bowler, conceding no more than the mid-to-late 20s in all those spells. He isn’t their best batter, bowler, or allrounder, but his utility has allowed Namibia to keep control once they’ve got it.

Team news

Afghanistan could be inclined to leave Karim Janat out after he endured four sixes at the hands of Asif Ali on Friday. The experience of Hamid Hassan might be a tempting replacement option, but they also have left-arm seamer Fareed Ahmad should they want more variety in the line-up.

Afghanistan: (possible) 1 Hazratullah Zazai, 2 Mohammad Shahzad (wk), 3 Rahmanullah Gurbaz, 4 Najibullah Zadran, 5 Mohammad Nabi (capt), 6 Asghar Afghan, 7 Gulbadin Naib, 8 Karim Janat/Hamid Hassan/Fareed Ahmad, 9 Rashid Khan, 10 Naveen-ul-Haq, 11 Mujeeb-ur-Rahman.

Namibia have been unchanged for two games and are likely to stay that way.

Namibia: (possible) 1 Craig Williams, 2 Zane Green (wk), 3 Gerhard Erasmus (capt.), 4 David Wiese, 5 Michael van Lingen, 6 JJ Smit, 7 Jan Frylinck, 8 Pikky Ya France, 9 Jan Nicol Loftie-Eaton, 10 Ruben Trumpelmann, 11 Bernard Scholtz

Pitch and conditions

The forecast has Abu Dhabi’s temperature hovering about 32 degree celsius during the start of this afternoon fixture. As always, the surface is expected to favour the spinners, and the long boundaries make this ground a bowling captain’s favourite. Anything more than a par score will take really good batting.

Stats and trivia

  • The average first innings score in Abu Dhabi during the World Cup has been 127. In all cricket played there this year, the average is 162.
  • In 2021, no team has scored as quickly as Afghanistan have. Their average run rate is 9.1 and they hit a boundary every five balls; the next best team is England, with an average scoring rate of 8.6 and a boundary every 5.7 balls.
  • Namibia have bowled 72.3 overs at the World Cup so far, and 40.3 of them have been from left-arm fast bowlers; the left-armers have taken 14 wickets and have an economy of 6.4 at the moment.

Quotes

“When he injured his finger during the warm-up games, it was a massive blow for us. The initial report from the specialist was for him to return home for an operation. And he will still get that when he’s back but he has decided to stay on and our medical staff is managing that finger as best as we can. So far, his decision to stay on has really paid off. He’s an inspirational leader and he’s put together a few great performances and hopefully that finger can stay intact for another few games. Then, he’ll probably head home to the [operation] theatre and a long recovery period.”
Albie Morkel, Namibia’s assistant coach, talks about Gerhard Erasmus’ resolve

“The mood in the camp is a bit dull at the moment. When you lose a close game, it is like this, but you have to get back. We have to back Karim [Janat]. It can happen to anybody, as it has happened before. So we will get back soon.”
Fast bowler Naveen-ul-Haq talks about the mood after the Pakistan loss

Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo



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