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Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmad speaks to his team on the field during a training session at Headingley in Leeds ahead of their Cricket World Cup clash against Afghanistan. Pakistan need a win to keep up their last-four hopes. Image Credit: AFP

Birmingham: Pakistan and Afghanistan meet as talk brews here of a likely India-Pakistan clash once again.

Victory over Afghanistan would strengthen Pakistan’s chances of reaching the last four.

During the post-match press conference after India’s win over the West Indies, K.L. Rahul was asked by a Pakistani journalist whether he foresees an India-Pakistan semi-final or a final clash.

Rahul remained non-committal and said the team was focused only on the next match for now.

The Pakistan and Afghanistan match will be a clash of players who know each other very well.

Most of the Afghanistan squad play in Pakistan, and hence the clash is more of a battle for personal pride.

Afghanistan have nothing to lose, as they have already lost all their matches, but for Pakistan a victory can strengthen chances of reaching the semi-finals.

Pakistan have shown how they can bounce back if cornered.

Their back-to-back wins over South Africa and New Zealand have made them a power to be reckoned with once again.

They seemed to have recovered from the morale-shattering defeat to India.

Haris Sohail, who has turned hero through his match-winning knocks, is confident that his team will continue their winning run. At the prematch press conference, while talking about their chances against Afghanistan, a confident Sohail said: “We will keep it very simple. We are taking it one match at a time. They have quality spinners and we’ve seen a lot of their videos and worked out a plan. Hopefully, we’ll have a good match tomorrow.”

Given that his display has boosted the confidence of the Pakistan team, he said he has been in form since the UAE series against Australia.

“I have been playing well since the Australian series, but this time they’ve given me a different role of batting either at 4 or 5. So we will assess the situation and play accordingly.”

Pakistan are hoping to repeat their 1992 performance, where they went on to win the World Cup after the initial setbacks, and are keen to lift the trophy this time too. But like Sohail, Pakistan’s other stars have not been consistent.

A lot will depend on pacer Mohammad Amir’s showing in the coming matches as well as Babar Azam’s batting. Azam cracked a match-winning century against New Zealand. While it is a fact that this team have shown only flashes of brilliance, should they maintain their brilliance in team coordination, they will be unbeatable.

As for Afghanistan, they will be aiming for their first win of the tournament. Since they know the weaknesses and strengths of most of their opponents, having played with them in many domestic matches, they will try and utilise it to trap them. They had put a fine performance against India and Bangladesh, and that is a big boost for them.

The forecast for the Headingley ground is a sunny day, but the wicket is likely to assist spin. With both the teams having quality spinners, the contest will be exciting. However, winning the toss and batting first will be an advantage.

Former Pakistan captain and coach Waqar Younis has warned Pakistan from being complacent against Afghanistan.

Writing for the ICC, he said: “The danger now is that complacency starts to creep in. After beating South Africa and then New Zealand, it would be easy to get carried away. They cannot allow that to happen. They must focus on the next game against Afghanistan and make sure they win.”

Catch the Match

Afghanistan vs Pakistan

Venue: Headingley

Start time: 1.30pm

Broadcast: OSN Sports