Shoaib Malik got Pakistan over the line against New Zealand
Shoaib Malik, former captain and senior allrounded, showed remarkable calm to take Pakistan over the line against New Zealand in the second game. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: A buoyant Pakistan, on the back of their wins against India and New Zealand, will not want to take their feet off the pedal when they take on a potentially dangerous Afghanistan team in their ICC T20 World Cup match at the Dubai International Stadium on Friday.

There is a certain feel of the match being a home derby - what with the UAE serving as the ‘home’ venue for both the rivals for several years. Babar Azam’s men are certainly the form team in this tournament so far, along with England, and what must be doubly satisfying for them was the way they came out winners in contrasting fashions in their two games so far. While they had traditional rivals India on the backfoot for most of the game, they kept their nerves in a low-scoring thriller to prevail against New Zealand in Sharjah the other day.

If there is one area where the think tank may need to look carefully is the middle order - which had been unested in the first game but managed to hold their own against the Kiwis after the fall of a few quick wickets. One is likely to see the two veterans, Mohammed Hafeez and Shoaib Malik, up the order on a regular basis as a lot rests on them to keep the scoreboard ticking when the two-pronged Afghan spin attack will be in operation.


This Afghanistan team is fortunate to be operating with two world class spinners in Rashid Khan and off spinner Mujib-ur Rehman. The pair turned their first game against qualifiers Scotland into a no-contest as the inexperienced batsmen had no clue against the turn and bounce of the duo on the Sharjah surface - which offered a bit of grip as they were bundles out for 60 runs.

The Afghan batting also held out against the Scotland attack - bordering on the pedestrian - to rake up a steep total of 190 for four. Nazibullah Zadran helped himself to a quick half-century (59 off 34 balls) while Hazrat Zazai and Ramanullah Gurbaz chipped in substantially. However, the difference in quality of new ball attack, comprising of Shaheen Afridi, Hasan Ali and Haris Rauf will be like chalk and cheese and the onus will be on Jazai and Mohammed Shehzad to weather the early storm if they want to give their bowlers a chance on the Dubai wicket.

Meanwhile, former skipper and chief selector Inzamam-ul Haq was among Pakistan’s former greats who has liked their approach so far. “It doesn’t matter if we lose two wickets in the first six overs but at least we must score 60 runs as it sets the momentum for the players. Babar Azam went unlucky on 9 runs as he was trying to score runs,” he said on his Youtube channel.

“If we want to win the tournament then we have to utilize the first six overs very well. The way Fakhar Zaman and Muhammad Hafeez played attacking cricket, they should continue with this type of aggression in the whole tournament. Though they both were unable to score big, but the aggression they showed should be carried on.”

Catch the match

Pakistan vs Afghanistan

Venue: Dubai International Stadium

Match starts at 6 pm UAE