Afghanistan look to finish their campaign with a bang
Sunday, March 27, 2016
Start time 1500 local (0930 GMT)
More than two weeks into the tournament, and Afghanistan are still out there, playing in front of a global audience. That, in itself, is a victory, though their clash against West Indies is a dead rubber.
Not merely content in having fun in the qualifiers, Afghanistan stormed into the Super 10s, and have made their presence felt. In each of their last three matches, Afghanistan have pushed their opponents, delivering a fright or two. And they have done so while showcasing a flamboyant brand of cricket that has caught the eye. As they enter their last high-profile match in the foreseeable future, they will look to go one step further and bag a major scalp. They will have to back up the flair with discipline, and sustain it over 40 overs if they are to bring West Indies down.
West Indies, having secured their place in the semi-finals with a tight win over South Africa on Friday, will want to head to the knockouts unbeaten. With several players firing, West Indies are increasingly fancied as title contenders. They, however, made heavy weather of a 123 chase in their last match, and will have to be wary of Afghanistan who tested Sri Lanka, South Africa, and England.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
West Indies: WWWWL
In the spotlight
If Afghanistan are to pull off an upset, captain Asghar Stanikzai may well have to play a key role, in more ways than one. Though Mohammad Shahzad has had the limelight in this tournament, Afghanistan's middle order needs to chip in. And Stanikzai's calm approach could provide some substance and stability. Stanikzai is also capable of playing the big shots, as he showed during his 62 against Sri Lanka. As a captain, he also faces the challenge of making the most of his spin resources.
Denesh Ramdin's struggles in this format have shown no signs of abating. He has the lowest T20I batting average - 16.12 - among wicketkeeper-batsmen who have played at least 20 innings. Against South Africa on Friday, he came in at no. 9. By the time he came on strike for his first ball, West Indies needed one run off three. He cut in the air straight to Hashim Amla - who dropped it - and West Indies prevailed. They will hope that Ramdin hits form to boost the team further.
Afghanistan are likely to stick to the same combination, though they need to make a choice between left-arm spinner Amir Hamza and an extra seamer.
Afghanistan: (probable) 1 Mohammad Shahzad (wk), 2 Noor Ali Zadran, 3 Asghar Stanikzai (capt), 4 Gulbadin Naib, 5 Samiullah Shenwari, 6 Mohammad Nabi, 7 Rashid Khan, 8 Najibullah Zadran, 9 Shafiqullah, 10 Amir Hamza/Hamid Hassan/Dawlat Zadran 11 Shapoor Zadran
Given that this is a dead rubber, West Indies may ponder giving Jason Holder a go.
West Indies: (probable) 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Johnson Charles, 3 Andre Fletcher, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 6 Andre Russell, 7 Dwayne Bravo, 8 Darren Sammy (capt), 9 Carlos Brathwaite/Jason Holder, 10 Samuel Badree, 11 Sulieman Benn
Pitch and conditions
The Nagpur surface has offered slow turn right through the World T20, and will probably continue to do so in its last match of the tournament. Mid-day temperatures have been touching the low 40s range, and the 3pm start will test the fitness of the players.
Stats and Trivia
- West Indies are one of three Full Members that Afghanistan have never met in T20Is. Against the seven they have met, they have won five and lost nine (with all five wins coming against Zimbabwe)
- West Indies have played only one other Associate team - Ireland - in T20Is. In their four matches against Ireland, they won two and lost one, with one no result
"It has been a lucky ground for us because we have won our first round over here in Nagpur. So definitely after playing three matches and coming back it's like a home ground and easy to adjust to the wicket. The boundaries here are very different compared to other grounds. They are longer boundaries and in addition to that we have good spinners. So, on this wicket our spinners will really help us to finish on a good note."
Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai on coming back to the venue where the side won all its first-round matches
"They've played well in all the games. They've batted really well, [especially when] they were chasing a big score against South Africa, who we played yesterday. So they've been playing well and I know them from before, so I know that they're going to come to try and win. So we've got to just play properly."
West Indies coach Phil Simmons on Afghanistan
Sirish Raghavan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo