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The Preview by Alan Gardner
September 20, 2012
While Afghanistan, like Ireland, no longer benefit from the element of surprise - England will have watched their defeat to India, in addition to the hours of video analysis - the brio and verve that infuses their cricket still manages to act like an adrenaline shot. Afghanistan's effervescent rise in world cricket has not yet brought the scalp of a Full Member but the margins of defeat are getting smaller and a particularly poor display in the field, when they dropped four catches, was the main difference against India. That is an area Afghanistan must address but there is a sense that heroic near-misses will only suit them for so long.
For England, a win will produce no fanfare but would secure progression from Group A. Their status as both the No. 1 team and the defending champions sits uneasily with a young squad playing in unfamiliar conditions but two contrasting victories in tight warm-up matches suggest they have taken their preparations seriously. England will be happy to doff their caps respectfully and avoid a duffing up, otherwise serious questions will be asked. You imagine that Kevin Pietersen, in his role as a pundit for ESPN Star Sports, would be happy to field a few of them.
Watch out for
While 32 not out is not a high score to make bowlers quake, the fact that Jos Buttler nonchalantly carved 30 of those runs off one Wayne Parnell over (that included two no-balls) changes the equation somewhat . Buttler has a cool head to go with his power and invention and must now trade the pressure of proving himself for the weight of expectation. His last T20I innings was a Fabergé egg but England will hope for something more on the scale of an ostrich's in the near future.
Afghanistan (possible) 1 Mohammad Shahzad (wk), 2 Javed Ahmadi, 3 Nawroz Mangal (capt), 4 Karim Sadiq, 5 Asghar Stanikzai, 6 Mohammad Nabi, 7 Samiullah Shenwari, 8 Shafiqullah, 9 Gulbodin Naib, 10 Dawlat Zadran, 11 Shapoor Zadran
England have had a settled line-up in T20 cricket this year and they may decide that now is not the time to start experimenting. Luke Wright has seemingly confirmed himself as Ravi Bopara's replacement at No. 3 after impressing during the warm-up matches and the main question is whether they will play another spinner. If they stick with the three-man pace attack and attempt to rough up Afghanistan on a quick pitch, Danny Briggs could be the man to miss out. A bold move would be to note the problems of Afghanistan's batsmen when pace was taken off the ball and play Briggs.
England (possible) 1 Craig Kieswetter (wk), 2 Alex Hales, 3 Luke Wright, 4 Eoin Morgan, 5 Jonny Bairstow, 6 Jos Buttler, 7 Samit Patel, 8 Stuart Broad (capt), 9 Graeme Swann, 10 Steven Finn, 11 Jade Dernbach
Pitch and conditions
Stats and trivia
"We have to accept there might be a few nicks fly past the wicketkeeper, and a few smashes over extra-cover and 'cow'."
England captain, Stuart Broad, knows what is coming
US readers can watch the match live here, coverage starts 30 minutes before the game begins.
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