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Affganistan Buoyant dominance

Afghanistan’s rise in world cricket has been based on an age-old formula. Bat first, score big and then use the pressure of the scoreboard to outwit the opposition. Cricket has changed a lot over the years and chasing targets has become the norm in recent years, especially in T20. But this approach has worked well for Afghanistan as they have a formidable arsenal of spinners. However, in two matches of this tournament, Fazalhaq Farooqi’s new ball has devastated Afghanistan’s opponents and allowed the spinners to wreak havoc. Such has been Afghanistan’s dominance that in both wins their top scorer Rahmanullah Gurbaz (76 and 80) has single-handedly outscored their opponents’ collective score. These big margins of victory mean Afghanistan have reached the Super 8s thanks to their impregnable net run rate. However, a win here would seal the deal and Afghanistan look set to do just that. PNG, on the other hand, has had a tough time so far. They put up a better performance than they did in the first match against the West Indies, giving the tournament hosts a tough fight, but fell short. The underdogs put up a good performance but then lost to Uganda in a low-scoring encounter, where PNG were expected to be the stronger of the two sides. Batting weakness is their biggest concern and things are going to get even tougher against Afghanistan’s potent bowling attack.

When: June 13, 2024 | 8.30 pm local time | 00:30 GMT (June 14) | 6 am IST (June 14)

Where: Brian Lara Stadium, Tarouba, Trinidad

What to expect: If the West Indies-New Zealand game is any indication, a playing surface is on its way that will have something for everyone. There could be extra bounce and some movement, while spin could also play a role. The easy pace also means that batsmen will stay in the game if they can apply themselves.

Afghanistan

Everything is going well, but Afghanistan’s real concern is Mujeeb-ur-Rahman’s fitness. Captain Rashid Khan revealed at the toss in the last match that his spin partner has been suffering from a frequent hand injury, which has forced him in and out of the team. If Mujeeb is fit, he should be included in the team in place of Noor Ahmed.

Strategy and matchups: Since 2021, there has been an increasing inclination towards pacers in night games in Tarouba, who have taken 21 of the 34 wickets. Afghanistan will have no problem with this, given the form of Farooqi and Naveen-ul-Haq this year. In 2024, Naveen-ul-Haq (44) and Farooqi (36) have the most wickets among Afghanistan bowlers in T20 cricket, with Rashid third. Probable XI: Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Ibrahim Zadran, Karim Janat, Azmatullah Umarzai, Gulbadin Naib, Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Rashid Khan (c), Noor Ahmad/Mujeeb-ur-Rahman, Naveen-ul-Haq, Fazalhaq Farooq Papua New Guinea There are no injury concerns in the PNG camp, but given the consecutive defeats, they might think of making a change or two. Strategy and matchups: While Farooqi has been a big threat with the new ball in both Afghanistan games so far, PNG batsmen have generally fared positively against left-arm pacers. Tony Ura (145), Charles Amini (136) and Lega Siaka (136) have solid strike-rates, while Assad Vala (106) has also been solid, although his scoring rate has been slow.

Probable XI: Assad Vala (captain), Tony Ura, Sese Bau, Lega Siaka, Hiri Hiri, Charles Amini, Kiplin Doriga (wicketkeeper), Chad Soper, Norman Vanua, Eli Nao, John Kariko

Six of Rahmanullah Gurbaz’s seven fifty-plus scores since 2022 have come while batting first. The strike rate has also dropped significantly, with 149 while batting first and 125 while batting second.

Afghanistan and Papua New Guinea have faced each other only once in 2015, with Afghanistan winning.

“As the tournament progresses, we have to capitalise on our chances, we have to perform to our best. We have to adapt as much as possible to different grounds.” – Assad Vala expects his batsmen to perform well