Afghanistan cricket team celebrating during a match. Afghanistan cricket team celebrating during a match.

Afghanistan aim to create history battling South Africa in first semi final

After playing their first official fixture in 2004 as part of the Asian Cricket Council Trophy, Afghanistan finds themselves playing their first-ever World Cup semi-final of the biggest T20 World Cup featuring 20 teams. They will be up against an unbeaten South Africa, who are yet to have a perfect game but are brutal and relentless on their day. 

It has been no less than a fairytale for this Afghan side. They were always regarded as a side with immense raw talent but a team lacking the experience to beat the top sides. However, with constant growth in skill level and determination, they have proved the assumptions wrong and have beaten sides like England, Pakistan, New Zealand, and Australia over the last year.

Their captain Rashid Khan, is perhaps the most sought-after playing in T20 cricket. And while he has been impactful constantly for his team, this tournament, he has risen up to the occasion like never before. His cameo at the end of the innings against Bangladesh was the difference between the two sides and helped Afghanistan reach the semi-finals.

Bowling has never been an issue for Afghanistan. They have been blessed with world-class spinners and they have the experience by playing domestic leagues all over the world. Afghanistan’s batting line-up has historically been underpowered in every tournament they participated. Not this time around, their openers, specifically Rahmanullah Gurbaz have led from the front with the bat and he is currently the top-scorer in this edition of the World Cup.

Their next assignment is a tough one. Facing South Africa in a World Cup semi-final is not going to be an easy outing for Afghanistan. Although they have defeated one unbeaten side Australia, but in a match where the stakes have never been higher for them, they need to come out all guns blazing. 

South Africa will look to take advantage of the lack of batting depth in Afghanistan’s playing XI. Apart from Gurbaz and Ibram Zadran, there hasn’t been a player consistent with the bat, so, if the Proteas can break the opening partnership early, they will look to run through the middle order. Left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj will be confident facing the right-hander-heavy Afghanistan line-up on a Tarouba pitch expected to offer variable bounce. Left-arm wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi has been expensive this tournament, but against a vulnerable middle order, he will be looking to trouble the batters with variations. 

Reeza Hendricks has been kept quiet with the bat and his struggling form will be a major concern for Aiden Markram as a solid opening partnership is going to be crucial against a top-class spin attack from Afghanistan. However, Proteas’ middle order comprising Markram himself, Tristan Stubbs, Heinrich Klaasen, and David Miller, is more than capable of countering spin. 

Tarouba will be hosting this enthralling contest between South Africa and Afghanistan. The playing surfaces at this venue were witnessed offering variable bounce. However, it is expected that we might see a truer pitch due to the remedial work done over the past two weeks.