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The Preview by Karthik Krishnaswamy
March 4, 2014
Agarkar: India must play Pandey and Pujara
Match factsMarch 5, 2014
Big PictureThanks to that man Shahid Afridi, yet again, but thanks mostly to their own inadequacies, India are out of the Asia Cup. The fact that they were banking on Bangladesh to pull off upsets in successive matches just to keep them alive showed India probably didn't merit a place in the final anyway.
If Bangladesh had beaten Pakistan, India would have still needed to keep up their end of the equation. They would have had to beat Afghanistan and win with a bonus point. India will still want that bonus point, even though they have nothing tangible left to play for. Both Pakistan and Sri Lanka managed it, and India will want to match those two sides on that count.
At the pre-match press conference, Ambati Rayudu said India had run both Pakistan and Sri Lanka very close, and had been unfortunate to lose both games "by a metre". What's done is done, though, and both those defeats could have been avoided had India played sharper cricket and grabbed their chances. In both matches, they lost wickets at inopportune moments during the middle overs.
They won't want to repeat those mistakes in their last league match. Afghanistan bowl with skill and discipline, and it will be important India's batsmen don't give them easy wickets. The middle order will particularly need to keep this in mind; a bit of patience at the beginning of their innings could be rewarded later on, since Afghanistan's death bowling, which has twice let them down in this tournament, looks a little vulnerable.
It seems unlikely India will make changes to their middle order. Ajinkya Rahane and Ambati Rayudu haven't completely convinced, but they have earned their right to an extended spell in the side with one important half-century each. Dinesh Karthik, meanwhile, is the only specialist wicketkeeper in India's squad. By this calculation, if India are to leave someone out to bring Cheteshwar Pujara in, it might mean they rest one of their openers.
In both their defeats so far, Afghanistan's batsmen looked at relative ease against the seam bowlers and all at sea against spin. With this in mind, India will likely stick with the three-spinner combination that did so well against Pakistan.
Afghanistan, meanwhile, will want to finish the tournament strongly, to show they are capable of putting pressure on big sides consistently. They will want to improve on their death bowling; Hamid Hassan's possible return in place of Dawlat Zadran could help them in this regard. They will definitely want to bat out 50 overs; they will need to cut out the expansive shots, such as the silly slog that spelled the end of Mohammad Shahzad against Sri Lanka. Most importantly, they will want to continue doing the things they have already done well.
Form guideAfghanistan LWLWW (completed matches, most recent first)
Watch out forAmit Mishra bowled beautifully against Pakistan, prompting his captain, Virat Kohli, to enthuse about his ability to turn the ball on any surface. Afghanistan have been quite susceptible to spin in this tournament, and a good spell from Mishra could well fetch him a big haul.
Mohammad Shahzad has played some of the most memorable strokes of the tournament, including a first-ball flick off Umar Gul and a flat six over cover off Suranga Lakmal. But he's only scored 18 runs in three innings so far, copping a bad decision against Pakistan and getting out to an atrocious stroke against Sri Lanka. If he can rein in his aggression against India, Shahzad could well end the tournament with a decent score.
Team newsIndia are likely to retain the same XI they picked against Pakistan.
India (likely): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Ajinkya Rahane, 5 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 6 Ambati Rayudu, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Amit Mishra, 11 Mohammed Shami.
Fitness permitting, Hamid Hassan could return to Afghanistan's pace attack in place of Dawlat Zadran. After the Sri Lanka game, coach Kabir Khan hinted they might give Rahmat Shah a go against India. With fellow legspinner Samiullah Shenwari also an important member of the batting lineup, it's possible Rahmat will replace left-arm spinner Hamza Hotak.
Afghanistan (likely): 1 Mohammad Shahzad (wk), 2 Noor Ali Zadran, 3 Asghar Stanikzai, 4 Nawroz Mangal, 5 Mohammad Nabi (capt), 6 Najibullah Zadran, 7 Samiullah Shenwari, 8 Mirwais Ashraf, 9 Hamza Hotak/Rahmat Shah, 10 Dawlat Zadran/Hamid Hassan, 11 Shapoor Zadran.
Stats and trivia
Quotes"They are a very good bowling side as we have seen in the competition. We need to keep our head down and make sure we get runs."
*1800 GMT, March 4: The stats and trivia had incorrectly stated that India and Afghanistan had played only once in T20s. This has been corrected.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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