A win against Afghanistan tomorrow (Wednesday) should seal Pakistan’s place in the final of the DP World Cup. That’s not a certainty. For, if India win against Sri Lanka and Afghanistan and if Sri Lanka upset Pakistan, there could be a three-way tie at the end of the Super 4 round. Each team will have two wins, and the run rate comes into play.
As for now, Pakistan should not have many qualms in despatching Afghanistan at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium. Afghanistan have played some good cricket in the tournament, but the loss against Sri Lanka exposed a lack of consistency. The bowling wasn’t up to scratch, and even leg-spinner Rashid Khan went for runs, and Rahmanullah Gurbaz played a lone hand while batting with the middle-order floundering.
Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan: a contrast
If the Afghans cannot shore up their game, they could be in for a rout at the hands of Pakistan, who have been dominant in the tournament. Even the only loss to India was a narrow one. The pace pack led by Naseem Shah has stood up to some stern examinations, and spinners Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz have choked the batters repeatedly.
Skipper Babar Azam’s lack of runs has been offset by Mohammad Rizwan, who has anchored their innings so well that he’s the leading run-getter in the tournament. His fitness is a worry, having jarred his knee in the India game. Shahnawaz Dahani’s side strain is another injury worry, but he is reportedly recovering well. In any case, there’s Mohammad Hasnain as cover for the fast bowler.
Perhaps, the most heartwarming discovery was the form and prowess of power-hitter Nawaz, who snatched the Super 4 game from India. While Fakhar Zaman is yet to hit his stride, Khushdil Shah showed a glimpse of his batting skills in the Hong Kong game.
The Afghan spin trio of Rashid Khan, Mujib ur Rahman and captain Mohammad Nabi must be treated with caution on the more helpful Sharjah pitch. Young seamers Fazalhaq Farooqi and Naveen ul Haq, who have been impressive on a tacky pitch in Dubai, haven’t had the same success in Sharjah.
Afghanistan can run Pakistan close. Beyond that, it’s difficult to see an upset. That means Pakistan will take another step closer to the final.