Scotland's Richie Berrington plays a shot during the ICC men’s Twenty20 World Cup cricket match against Papua New Guinea in Oman
Scotland's Richie Berrington plays a shot during the ICC Men’s Twenty20 World Cup match against Papua New Guinea in Oman. Image Credit: AFP

Afghanistan have a score to settle with Scotland when they square off on Monday. The pain from the big loss in the 2018 Cricket World Cup Qualifier will resurface in Sharjah, adding spice to the Group 2 game in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup.

But Afghanistan will have to be wary of Scotland, who come into the Super 12s on the back of three wins in the preliminaries — the best result in their cricketing history. That would buoy the Scottish spirits and give them the confidence to take on the cricketing heavyweights.

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In contrast, Afghanistan’s preparations have not been ideal. They didn't have to play the qualifiers after finishing in the top eight of the T20 International rankings. But turmoil in their country put Afghanistan’s participation in doubt before the International Cricket Council cleared them.

Rashid Khan, their leg-spinning trump card, and allrounder Mohammad Nabi have been part of the Sunrisers Hyderabad’s campaign in the IPL. So they have a fair idea of the pitches in the UAE. The duo, along with mystery spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman, will play leading roles in the Afghan campaign, but their batting and pace bowling are a worry.

The big-hitting Rahmanullah Gurbaz is expected to provide the starts for Asghar Afghan and Nabi to handle the middle overs before Najibullah Zadran provides the final flourish. The seam bowling is heavily reliant on Naveen-ul Haq and Karim Janat.

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Batting isn’t a concern for Scotland. George Munsey’s aggression at the top will be tempered by some steady batting from captain Kyle Coetzer, Matthew Cross, Calum MacLeod and Richie Berrington.

Good bowling from left-arm spinners Mark Watt, leg-spinner Chris Greaves and off-break bowler Michael Leask have been a feature of the Scottish success. They have a decent bunch of seamers in the experienced Brad Wheal and Josh Davey.

This match is too close to call. But don’t be surprised if Scotland spring a surprise.