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

Afghanistan on verge of super eight spot set to face PNG

Afghanistan in sizzling form is all set to face Papua New Guinea and a win in this fixture would confirm their place in the super-eights. Afghanistan’s net run-rate is already miles ahead of every other team in the group and they are comfortably placed to make it to the next round. 

A major reason for their success so far this tournament has been their batting, specifically the top-order. Batting has always been a concern for Afghanistan and an underpowered batting line-up has mostly been the reason for their poor performances in major events. However this time around, openers Rahmanullah Gurzab and Ibrahim Zadran have provided their team exceptional starts of 154 against Uganda and 103 against New Zealand, with Gurbaz scoring half-centuries in both games. 

The only downside to their openers being excellent is that the middle order hasn’t got enough time in the middle yet and this could cause problems at the business end of the tournament. PNG will be looking to take advantage of this as their bowling attack has looked impressive in their first two games. Defending 136 against the West Indies, the PNG bowling attack made life difficult for the Windies but eventually lost the game. Against Uganda, they attempted to defend their first-inning score of just 78 and made Uganda work hard for it.

This fixture will be played in Tarouba where the conditions are generally sluggish. This could benefit PNG’s bowling attack to contain the likes of Gurbaz scoring runs quickly, however, Afghan spinners would also have the chance to run through PNG’s batting. PNG will also be having the support of New Zealand who are on the brink of elimination.

Mujeeb Ur Rahman, who missed the previous game with a hand injury, would be likely to return if fit and Noor Ahmad could be making way for him. The left-arm wrist spinner was just given a single over against New Zealand. If Mujeeb is fit to feature in the game, the spin-trio of Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, and Mujeeb would be looking to dominate alongside premier pacer Fazalhaq Farooqi, Karim Jannat, and allrounder Azmatullah Omarzai.

PNG is expected to field an unchanged team with Assad Vala, the skipper, to open the innings alongside Tony Ura. Sese Bau will be coming in at number three, while Lega Saka, Hiri Hiri, Charles Amini, and wicketkeeper Kiplin Doriga will be forming up the middle order.

The pitch at the Brian Charles Lara cricket stadium played true to its sluggish nature in the game between West Indies and New Zealand, and the conditions are expected to pan out similarly in this fixture too. The bounce was also unpredictable making it even more difficult for the batters to hit through the line. The good news is that the weather forecast remains clear but it might change. Toss would play a significant role in this game as the captain winning the toss would want to bowl first because of the dew around.