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Match Preview – Afghanistan vs India, Asia Cup 2022, 11th Match, Super Four

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It’s a dead game as far as the tournament is concerned, but try telling that to India and Afghanistan – both painful after a string of heartbreaking losses. Now, before jumping home on an early morning flight, there is pride and some playing time to build up as they head for the T20 World Cup.

Neither side thought this game would decide who finished last in the Super 4s. So much for the general premise and hype surrounding India vs Pakistan and their ‘three match series’.

The clash will be particularly tough for Afghanistan for obvious reasons. Physically, the heat and humidity would have taken their toll on the players as they will have to appear fresh less than 18 hours after their potboiler against Pakistan in Sharjah. That’s not all. It’s also a matter of trying to lift oneself mentally and emotionally after Wednesday’s heartbreak.

As such, international cricket can be demanding, but their schedule, in these oppressive conditions, was anything but friendly. But it is likely that Afghanistan, which has been through much worse in life and otherwise, will show up and try to put India to the test.

It should not have escaped anyone’s attention that the victory is by no means a formality for India. They will still have to show up and fight for every run, every wicket. It’s a reality check for them, even as they struggle with roster challenges and template changes in the lead up to the World Cup. Against a world-class spin attack that can challenge the best in the world, this will be another big test.

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Afghanistan has twice lost matches they controlled and will get another chance to fight nerves to close matches. It’s just a matter of trying to go one step further. Either way, expect an exciting match with no clear favorites for this one.

Form Guide

India: LLWWW (win-loss in last five games, most recent first)
Afghanistan: WLWWL

In the spotlight

Bhuvneshwar Kumar has had two bad outings, especially in the death overs. He is in charge of the difficult penultimate overs, both against Pakistan and Sri Lanka. They cost 19 and 14 respectively. This meant that young Arshdeep Singh had to defend six in both matches in the final. Bhuvneshwar hopes this slight dip is temporary as India has returning Jasprit Bumrah, Harshal Patel and possibly Deepak Chahar, waiting to attack opponents in Australia. Among them, it is Bhuvneshwar’s fight with Chahar that is similar as they are both swing bowlers. Bhuvneshwar has the support of Rohit Sharma and the team management, but nothing beats a good performance to make the world a better place.

Mujeeb Ur Rahman seemed to have lost a bit of his sting and X factor due to form and injury issues, causing his T20 stocks to plunge. But solid performances so far in the Asian Cup have helped him return as one of Afghanistan’s top spinners alongside Rashid Khan in their first team. He has so far picked up seven wickets in four games with an economy of 5.12 in the tournament. He has been so good that Afghanistan had to keep out Qais Ahmed as they also have a third spin option in captain Mohammad Nabi. Mujeeb and Afghanistan hope this wave continues to Australia.

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Location and conditions

Surfaces slowly lose luster and it becomes more and more useful to the bowlers, especially if they are willing to dig it in. However, the same surfaces seem to get just a little faster at night, making things easy for the chasing team despite the absence of dew. Only two out of 19 games have been won by the team that hits first here since January 2020. That’s quite a devastating statistic for the team that loses the toss, as captains invariably choose to bowl first. Weather-wise, it remains hot and muggy, although temperatures have dropped just a little bit in the evenings. From early 1940s to late 1930s (Centigrade) at night.

Team news

Deepak Chahar has not been officially included in the roster but there is a good chance he could play pending Asian Cricket Council approval if Avesh Khan is banned from the match. Chahar has been a regular part of training and bowled in full ahead of the start of the Sri Lanka match. They were also able to bring in Dinesh Karthik and Axar Patel for Rishabh Pant Deepak Hooda.

India (probably): 1 KL Rahul, 2 Rohit Sharma (capt), 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Suryakumar Yadav, 5 Hardik Pandya, 6 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 7 Axar Patel, 8 Deepak Chahar, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 R Ashwin/ Yuzvendra Chahal, 11 Arshdeep Singh

Afghanistan will struggle depending on how the players behave after their match against Pakistan.

Afghanistan (probably): 1 Hazratullah Zazai, 2 Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), 3 Ibrahim Zadran, 4 Najibullah Zadran, 5 Mohammad Nabi (capt), 6 Karim Janat, 7 Rashid Khan, 8 Azmatullah Omarzai, 9 Naveen-ul-Haq, 10 Mujeeb-ur-Rahman, 11 Fazalhaq Farooqi.

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Statistics and trivia

  • Prior to Wednesday’s match, Rashid had collected just 13 wickets this year in 13 T20Is played. However, he has been frugal, with 6.26 runs per over.
  • In the last 10 T20Is in which India batted first, they won each of the six times they made 185 or more. They have failed to defend in three of the four games in which they failed to reach this score.
  • Indian pacers have taken just three wickets in the power play-overs in this Asian Cup, averaging 58.66 against an economy of 8.06.
  • Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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