Afghanistan v Scotland, WT20 qualifier, Group B, Nagpur March 7, 2016

Bowling-heavy Afghanistan seek to avoid complacency


Match facts

March 8, 2016
Start time 1500 local (0930 GMT)

With bowlers like Dawlat Zadran, Afghanistan have the edge in terms of genuine pace © Chris Whiteoak

Big Picture

Since the start of 2015, Afghanistan have played 16 Twenty20 Internationals. They have won 13 of them and have the best win-loss ratio of any team in the world since then.

There is, of course, an asterisk next to those numbers. Afghanistan's opponents in those 16 matches were Netherlands, United Arab Emirates (twice), Scotland, Hong Kong (three times), Papua New Guinea, Oman (four times) and Zimbabwe (four times). None of those teams features in the top ten of the ICC T20I rankings.

That Afghanistan haven't had a chance to play any of the top sides is mostly down to the way the cricket calendar is structured, and partly down to their own habit of fluffing their lines at important moments. Having begun the qualifying stage of the Asia Cup as overwhelming favourites, they promptly lost to UAE, and lost the opportunity to test themselves against India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. It was reminiscent of the first round of the 2014 World T20, where defeat to Nepal ended their chances of clashing against the big boys.

There should, therefore, be no complacency when Afghanistan prepare to meet Scotland, despite holding an 11-3 edge against them in their ODI and T20I meetings.

It took an epic escape act, engineered by Samiullah Shenwari, for Afghanistan to sneak a win when the two sides last met in a tournament of this stature, in Dunedin during the 2015 World Cup.

Scotland will start as underdogs for two reasons - the head-to-head record and the conditions. They have only won six of their 25 matches in Asia, and their seam-heavy bowling attack is unlikely to get too much help from the Nagpur pitch, which is likely to be a typically flat, subcontinental limited-overs surface rather than the minefield that hosted the India-South Africa Test in November.

Afghanistan have the edge, both in terms of genuine pace, with an attack comprising Dawlat Zadran, and the recently recalled new-ball duo of Shapoor Zadran and Hamid Hassan, as well as spin, with options in Amir Hamza's left-arm darts and Rashid Khan's low-slung legbreaks.

Afghanistan's batting, however, remains something of a weakness, with their line-up often unable to recover from early setbacks. Scotland's best chance, therefore, is to strike with the new ball and put the middle order under pressure.

Form guide

(last five completed matches, most recent first)
Afghanistan WWLWW
Scotland WLWLW

In the spotlight

Majid Haq is not a part of Scotland's squad and hasn't been since being sent back from the 2015 World Cup for disciplinary reasons. In the absence of their leading wicket-taker in international cricket, and in conditions where spin is likely to play a crucial role, 19-year-old Mark Watt will need to make an impact with his left-arm orthodox spin.

Gulbadin Naib is that rare T20 batsman who hits with immense power but hits down the ground. His talent often goes underutilised, with Afghanistan tending to send him in at No. 6 or 7. However, of late, they have toyed with batting him up the order. He made a blistering half-century the last time he batted at No. 3, only to be demoted to the lower middle order again. There is a chance, though, that Afghanistan will have a rethink come World T20: Naib batted at No. 3 in their warm-up match against Netherlands, and struck 23 off 14 balls before he was run out.

Team news

Hamid Hassan is back in Afghanistan's squad for the first time since July 2015, and bowled his full quota of four overs against Netherlands. Whether they play both Hamid and Shapoor Zadran, who has also returned after a long spell out of the side, could depend on the pitch, with left-arm spinner Amir Hamza likely to take one of their places if turn is expected.

Afghanistan (probable): 1 Mohammad Shahzad (wk), 2 Noor Ali Zadran, 3 Asghar Stanikzai (capt), 4 Karim Sadiq, 5 Najibullah Zadran, 6 Mohammad Nabi, 7 Gulbadin Naib, 8 Dawlat Zadran, 9 Rashid Khan, 10 Hamid Hassan, 11 Shapoor Zadran/Amir Hamza

Scotland have a fairly settled line-up, and the composition of their bowling attack could depend on conditions, with the No. 7 slot looking like a toss-up between Rob Taylor's left-arm seam and Michael Leask's offspin.

Scotland (probable): 1 Kyle Coetzer, 2 Calum MacLeod, 3 Matthew Cross (wk), 4 Matt Machan, 5 Richie Berrington, 6 Preston Mommsen (capt), 7 Michael Leask/Rob Taylor, 8 Josh Davey, 9 Safyaan Sharif, 10 Mark Watt, 11 Alasdair Evans.

Pitch and conditions

The strip laid out for the India-South Africa Test in November earned the VCA Stadium an official warning from the ICC. It's unlikely that the surfaces hosting the World T20 games will provide the spinners remotely as much assistance. ODI totals at the ground are a more reliable indicator of what to expect - in 14 innings, teams have crossed 290 ten times.

Stats and trivia

  • Mohammad Shahzad (1145 runs in T20Is) has scored more than twice as many runs as Afghanistan's second-highest T20I run-getter, Asghar Stanikzai (552).

  • Afghanistan have a 5-0 record against Scotland in T20Is.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  •   Belur Keshavaram on March 9, 2016, 0:58 GMT

    Great victory for Afghans. They really played very well. Had things under control. It was nail biting finish. Only thing is all Associate Teams needs exposure with the test playing teams. Remember in 1979 WC SL was an Associate member. They beat Ind by 47 runs after putting in to Bat. Even the Associate teams are playing well or on par with test playing teams. Finally cricket is the winner.

  •   Mohammad Ahsan Jaffar on March 8, 2016, 13:52 GMT

    Good decision to bat by Afghans a big score can be achieved i think it will come down to Afghanistan v Zimbabwe in this group

  • Ahmad Hussain on March 8, 2016, 13:40 GMT

    i am not in afghanistan now but i feel afghans feeling when afghaniatan win the game from scotland i cant say my feelings now the day once again we beat scotland all the best blue tigers

  • Babar on March 8, 2016, 11:26 GMT

    Sitting here in lecture i will be following the match instead of doing my work.

  • Musty on March 8, 2016, 11:13 GMT

    having hamza hotak for Indian pitches i think will be good correct me if i am wrong also he is effective against Zimbabwe remember so instead of shapor i would put him on i am confuse! zahirshah your explaining my feeling bro

  • Waqar Khan on March 8, 2016, 11:03 GMT

    Good luck aghanistan, hope you beat scotts

  • Baundule on March 8, 2016, 10:30 GMT

    I do not get why Afghanistan should be compalcent at all. Scotland used to be a good side, and completely on par with Afghanistan.

  • Somon Sumon on March 8, 2016, 9:06 GMT

    hope Afghanistan win comfortable best of luck I like see Afghan in main round in world t20 from Bangladeshi

  • AhMad Bawar on March 8, 2016, 9:03 GMT

    insha Allah afghanistan win today and the next matchs and qualify for next round

  • Adel on March 8, 2016, 9:03 GMT

    AFGAN is a spirited team but spirit alone will not be handy enough to overcome the qualifying hurdles like it proved to be true in the Asia Cup 2016 qualifying matches. Fact is afagns re bowling heavy side and their depth in batting is very feeble. Most of the batters are aging and lack in technique. In a batting friendly pitches in India, afgans will struggle heavily. Selectors and administrators of afgan team should consider these points. Cricket fan from India.

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