The Afghanistan challenge

March 19, 2023

It won’t be easy for Pakistan to win the T201 series in Sharjah starting from March 24

The Afghanistan challenge

Ashort three-T20I series between Pakistan and Afghanistan is starting in Sharjah from March 24. Shadab Khan has been selected as the captain; he has been Pakistan’s vice-captain in white-ball cricket for the past few years, so it makes sense that he leads the team for the T20I series in Babar Azam’s absence.

To manage the workload of players, skipper Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Fakhar Zaman, and Haris Rauf have all been rested.

The top performers of PSL 2023 — Saim Ayub, Tayyab Tahir, Abdullah Shafique, Azam Khan (wk), and Ihsanullah - have been rewarded for their outstanding performance in the league.

Saim Ayub has been the most impressive in this PSL, scoring 309 runs in ten matches for Peshawar Zalmi at a strike rate of 167.02.

Tayyab Tahir has shown glimpses of becoming an explosive T20 batter, hitting 137 runs at strike rate of 144.21 for Karachi Kings. This after scoring 413 runs at a strike rate of 138 at the National T20 Cup. All-rounder Imad Wasim has been called up to the national squad after a long time.

Asif Ali, Haider Ali, Mohammad Hasnain and Khushdil Shah failed to find a spot in the squad due to unimpressive performances in the PSL.

The short series is a good opportunity for the young players to show their skills, perform in the series and cement their place for the future assignments.

The series will also allow the PCB management to test the talent and abilities of young players to strengthen the pool of players for next year’s T20 World Cup in the West Indies and the United States.

Pakistan are placed on the third position in the ICC Twenty20 team ranking while Afghanistan are 10th.

Afghanistan have shown a tremendous rise in their performance in recent years. They qualified for ICC World Twenty20 2012 held in Sri Lanka. On October 3, 2013, they beat Kenya to finish second in the WCL Championship and qualified for the 2015 Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Afghanistan in the past few years have shown the world what they can deliver on their day.

Afghanistan cricket team’s success is not a fluke. There has been a continuous struggle and also Pakistan’s support.

In the Asia Cup 2022 they beat Sri Lanka in the tournament opener by 8 wickets, then defeated Bangladesh by 7 wickets to qualify for the Super Four stage for the first time, but failed to qualify for the finals.

Former Pakistan captains Inzamam-ul-Haq and Rashid Latif and fast bowler Kabir Khan have trained the Afghanistan cricket team.

Inzamam had accepted Afghanistan’s head coach contract for only the tour of Zimbabwe in October 2015.

But after winning the first ever series against an ICC full-member country, the Afghanistan Cricket Board wanted to extend Inzamam’s contract till 2017. He extended it only for one year.

Afghanistan hold the world record for the highest ever T20I score — 278-3 against Ireland at Dehradun on February 23, 2019.

Afghanistan are a good cricket team, especially in the shortest format of the game. So far Afghanistan have played 110 T20I matches, won 70 and lost 39; one was tied.

Zimbabwe and Ireland are their favourite teams. They have won 14 out of 15 and 16 matches out of 23 against Zimbabwe and Ireland, respectively.

But against Pakistan, the Afghans have failed to win so far.

The first T20I between the two teams was played on December 8, 2013, in Sharjah. Afghanistan scored 137-8 that was chased by the Green-shirts in the last over for the loss of four wickets.

The second game was amazing. In the T20 World Cup on October 29, 2021, in Dubai, Pakistan chased the target of 148. They needed 24 runs in the last two overs. Asif Ali incredibly hit four sixes in the 19th over and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

The last T20 between the two teams was played on September 7, 2022, in Sharjah. It was another incredible win. In response to Afghanistan’s 129, Pakistan were reduced to 118-9 at the end of the 19th over. Unexpectedly, fast bowler Naseem Shah hit two back-to-back sixes in the last over and completed Pakistan’s hat-trick of wins.

Afghanistan are a bunch of talented and aggressive players that will give a tough time to Pakistan in the upcoming series.

There are several match-winners in Afghanistan, particularly Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi. Rahmanullah Gurbaaz and Najibullah Zadran’s participation increased the strength of the side.

Spin magician Rashid Khan could create problems for the Pakistani batters. He is the most successful bowler for Afghanistan with 124 wickets in 76 matches, averaging 30.07. He has taken four wickets four times while five wickets in an innings twice.

The Afghanistan challenge