Shell-shocked South Africa seek immediate lift
Sunday, March 20, 2016
Start time 1500 local (0930 GMT)
This was the game South Africa glossed over when the fixtures were announced. They were focused on the three former champions they would be facing and not on Qualifier B1. But then they did not know how much would hinge on that seemingly throwaway match-up.
South Africa find themselves in the same situation England were two days ago. Defeat in their opener means that they cannot afford another slip-up if they want to ensure the progression to the knockouts remains in their control. If they respond the way England did, they will have nothing to worry about.
Faf du Plessis will demand that they do, especially after he spent the latter part of the home summer explaining that South Africa were much-improved under pressure. For that to hold true, the captain will need to look at himself first. His own strike-rate has come under scrutiny, even though it remains in excess of 125 at this level. Mohammad Shahzad's tops 135. Those small differences can matter.
For Afghanistan, it is the big difference they are after. Advancing to the Super 10s was one thing, taking down a big name while they are there will be another. They had Sri Lanka in an awkward position, but too many mistakes in the field allowed the defending champions to escape. Afghanistan will not want to let South Africa get away with similar. At the same time, Afghanistan's own outcome hangs in the balance. Although few expect them to reach the knockouts, they will want to keep themselves in with a chance for longer than two matches.
(last five completed games most recent first)
South Africa LLLWW
In the spotlight
The biggest secret in South Africa's camp is out: AB de Villiers will not open the batting as originally planned. Despite de Villiers spending the months in the build-up in that role, leaving Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock to battle for one spot, South Africa have realised all three are too valuable and so de Villiers will hover near the top instead. With Amla and de Kock in form, it means de Villiers has the advantage of a platform to take off from and after failing against England, he will be hungry to make amends in front of an adoring crowd.
Afghanistan's spinners Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan lead the wicket-takers' list with sevens scalps each but are likely to find the going tougher on a surface without much grip or turn. But, against a South Africa middle-order that has historically gotten itself in a spin, they may eye an opportunity to add to their spoils. Even if they don't, their economy rate of 5.73 and 5.56 respectively could make things difficult anyway.
Chris Morris, the bowler, has continued to misfire which may force a change in the lower middle-order. South Africa's only other allrounder is David Wiese but if they include him, they may also need to strengthen the batting with the inclusion of Rilee Rossouw or Farhaan Behardien, which may lead to Kyle Abbott missing out.
South Africa: 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Faf du Plessis (capt), 4 AB de Villiers, 5 JP Duminy, 6 David Miller, 7 Chris Morris/Rilee Rossouw, 8 David Wiese/Kyle Abbott 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Imran Tahir
Afghanistan brought in the experience of Karim Sadiq for Gulbadin Naib, who has struggled after the Zimbabwe series in January, but Sadiq did not do much better. He was out for a duck, which could see Gulbadin brought back.
Afghanistan: (probable) 1 Mohammad Shahzad (wk), 2 Noor Ali Zadran, 3 Asghar Stanikzai (capt), 4 Mohammad Nabi, 5 Gulbadin Naib, 6 Samiullah Shenwari, 7 Shafiqullah, 8 Dawlat Zadran, 9 Najibullah Zadran, 10 Rashid Khan, 11 Hamid Hassan
Pitch and conditions
The Wankhede Stadium has already produced 824 runs in four innings, so it is fair to say the pitch is packed with runs. There is no assistance for seamers or spinners but it may be kinder to fielders with this fixture. This being a day game, dew will not become a factor which should take the emphasis off the outcome of the toss, which favoured the chasing side in the previous two matches.
Stats and Trivia
- South Africa and Afghanistan have met once before, at the 2010 World T20. South Africa won that match by 59 runs. Interestingly, Charl Langeveldt, who is now South Africa's bowling coach, was a star performer in that game with 3 for 12.
- While South Africa lamented the 26 extras they gave away against England on Friday - the most in a T20 innings this year - Afghanistan have had a similar problem. They conceded 23 extras against Zimbabwe in January.
"You can't take any team for granted. We saw how they played against Sri Lanka and in the shorter the format, the minnow teams are more in the running. We have to play our best players to beat them."
Hashim Amla gives Afghanistan the respect they deserve.
"We will play South Africa like we play every country, with our own cricket. We give a tough time to every team; we not only play with them, but want to beat one or two of them as well. As long as we play more cricket with Full Members we are getting more experience, and identifying the weak areas we need to work on to compete at the elite level."
Asghar Shanikzai promises that Afghanistan are up for it.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent