Cricket Twenty20 International 27 March 2023
Afghanistan vs Pakistan - Match Preview
Just in case anybody suspected that Afghanistan’s inaugural defeat of Pakistan on Friday was a fluke, or an aberration on the part of the 2022 T20 World Cup finalists, they repeated the dose just two days later with another gritty and low-scoring but ultimately successful run chase to gain an unassailable 2-0 series lead. Pakistan became the fifth ICC full member to have lost a bilateral T20I series to Afghanistan, a remarkable turnaround from just six months ago when their T20 World Cup campaigns could hardly have been different.
Despite Pakistan having played two more T20Is in the UAE than Afghanistan, who will be using the nation as their base for the next few years courtesy of an agreement with Emirates Cricket, the Afghans have looked far more comfortable in Sharjah, where they have played by far more T20 cricket than any other national team even including the UAE themselves. They now boast a 13-5 record at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, reducing Pakistan’s to 5-3 in the process, and have exploited the difficulty of striking boundaries to their advantage.
Both games have followed an eerily similar path which should give both captains a clear idea of what to do if they win the coin toss today for the second game in two days. The coin has fallen in favour of Pakistan skipper Shadab Khan twice and on both occasions, he has set his teammates the challenge of batting first at a venue where, prior to this series, six of the last nine T20Is involving two full-member nations were won by chasing. Now that Pakistan has lost five of their last six T20Is in which they batted first, perhaps it is a part of their game that they wish to work on ahead of the 2024 T20 World Cup.
On both occasions the touring party have lost three wickets in their batting powerplay - with Fazalhaq Farooqi and Naveen-ul-Haq successful in the first six overs in each match - and captain Shadab identified last night the perils of doing so when reciting the widely known stat that about 70% of T20 games are lost under such circumstances. Given they were not willing to make changes to the batting lineup (other than elevating Imad Wasim to number five) with the series on the line, it will be interesting to see if Pakistan opt to persist with the five top and middle-order batters that have failed twice, or whether experienced campaigners such as Shan Masood and Iftikhar Ahmed will be recalled to help avoid their first whitewash loss in a three-game series since 2019.
Afghanistan dropped Gulbadin Naib after his two-ball duck batting at number three in the first T20I and his replacement Usman Ghani was hardly any better, dismissed to Zaman Khan in the fourth over of the run chase. For the second time in a row, the experienced pair of Najibullah Zadran and Mohammad Nabi was unbeaten at the end of the run chase and have now added 84 runs across the two games without being broken up and with both stands beginning in potentially perilous circumstances. Rashid Khan has been faced with extreme caution but was still able to pick off key wickets after the powerplay in each game to keep Pakistan’s respective collapses ongoing.
📋 Key battle: Pakistan’s bowlers have done little wrong in this series, particularly Ihsanullah who has three top-order wickets - two of which belonged to Ibrahim Zadran. Ibrahim has faced just four balls bowled by Ihsanullah for four runs and two dismissals. But following his score of 38 yesterday, Ibrahim has recorded 35+ runs in four of his five T20I innings in Sharjah.
⚡ Stat attack: Just two of the 17 first innings scores of 145+ runs in Sharjah T20Is was successfully chased.
- Yesterday was the first time in seven T20Is played in the UAE that Naseem Shah failed to take a wicket. Across his last eight T20Is globally, he has taken just three wickets from 30 overs (average 68.33, economy 6.83rpo).
- Najibullah Zadran has been dismissed in just one of his last five T20I innings (23no, 17no, 1, 37no, 16no).
- The quintet of Saim Ayub, Mohammed Haris, Abdullah Shafique, Tayyab Tahir and Azam Khan have all been dismissed for fewer than 20 runs in both T20Is.
- Fazalhaq Farooqi has recorded figures for 2/13 and 2/19 in this series. In his 21 T20Is, he has never taken multiple wickets in three consecutive games.
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