Afghanistan vs Pakistan 1st T20I: Preview and Prediction
Hosts, Afghanistan is all set to welcome Pakistan for a three-match T20I series starting on Thursday. This is going to be the first-ever T20I series between the two nations, and all of them will be staged at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, UAE.
The home side named a 17-member squad for the upcoming series, and Rashid Khan will continue to lead the side. This will be his second assignment after the conclusion of the 2022 ICCT20 World Cup. Senior cricketer Mohammad Nabi, who led the unit during the honourable tournament a few months back, has been summoned back into the squad.
The series might also see the debut of Sediqullah Atal, a tall, left-handed opening batter who is known to play some elegant strokes. Talking about the exclusions, Rahmat Shah and Hazratullah Zazai are two names trimmed from the squad. In addition, Nijat Masoud and Zahir Khan, who were a part of the recently concluded UAE tour, have been kept in reserve alongside Nangyal Kharoti.
The Afghan batting is likely to show its usual characteristics, with Rahmanullah Gurbaz opening and the Zadran brothers forming the middle order. The pace department is likely to be headed by Fazalhaq Farooqi, with a toss-up between Naveen-ul-Haq and Azmatullah Omarzai for the other spot.
On the other side of the spectrum, the Pakistan Cricket Board announced a 15-man squad for the upcoming series. Shadab Khan, who led Islamabad United in the 2023 Pakistan Super League, will be the skipper of the unit.
The most highlighting aspect of the series is that marquee players such as Babar Azam, Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Rizwan, Haris Rauf, and Fakhar Zaman will not feature in the tour as they have been rested owing to workload management.
The Pakistan side will see a rich blend of youngsters, precisely hand-picked from the domestic circuit. This includes the likes of top-order batter Saim Ayub, express fast bowler, Ihsanullah, and attacking batter Tayyab Tahir.
Abdullah Shafique, who has been impressive in the red ball format, has been drafted into the squad after strong performances in the PSL 2022 for the Lahore Qalandars. Iftikhar, Shadab and Shan Masood are likely to be the mainstays in the middle order batting, while Naseem Shah is likely to spearhead the pace department. Also, Imad Wasim has been roped in, with a like-for-like member, Muhammad Nawaz retaining his place.
What have they done so far?
The home side arrives from a 2-1 series victory against UAE. The series was levelled after the second encounter, and some formidable team effort saw them on the better side at the end of the bilateral series. This was the first series victory for Rashid Khan as the full-time captain of the national team.
Previously, the Afghan side was humiliated during the 2022 T20 World Cup, failing to win a single game in the Super 12 stage. They initiated the campaign with a loss against England, followed by two rain-abandoned games. Furthermore, the Mohammad Nabi-led community withstood two straight defeats at the hands of India and Australia.
On the flip side, when it comes to international contests, Pakistan last played a T20 game during the Men’s ICC T20 World Cup 2022 in Australia. They ended up as the runners-up after failing to defend 137 runs in 20 overs.
The Babar Azam-led unit kicked off the campaign with defeats against archrival India, followed by the Chevrons. They turned the tables from a crunch situation and enforced three back-to-back wins to see Pakistan face New Zealand in the semi-finals. The Asian side showed ruthless aggression and chased down a target of 153 runs within the stipulated overs.
Head to Head Record
Both nations have squared off against each other only three times in the history of international T20s. Each time, it was Pakistan that edged past their neighbouring nation.
In 2013, Afghanistan and Pakistan toured the UAE for a one-off Twenty20 competition. Eight years later, they once again rubbed shoulders in the T20 World Cup. The latest encounter was in the 2022 Asia Cup, where Naseem Shah whacked two sixes and snatched the game from the jaws of defeat.
Shadab Khan (Pakistan): One of the prime all-rounders of Pakistan, Shadab Khan will play an integral part in the team during this series. The conditions in Sharjah are likely to be friendly to the spinners, where he can capitalize. Moreover, the 24-year-old was a part of the Big Bash League (BBL) and the PSL recently and notched up some impactful performances with both bat and ball in hand.
Since 2021, the stand-in skipper has been striking the ball over 150 with the willow in hand while taking 45 wickets from just 36 innings. Since then, he has been scalping wickets in every 17 balls in his international career.
Rashid Khan (Afghanistan): The magician was seen a little off-colored at the end of the calendar year 2022. But hold on; the 24-year-old made a bold statement in the recently concluded PSL, bucketing as many as 20 dismissals from 11 matches.
Rashid has been utterly impressed with a strike rate of 10.50 with the cork in hand, varying the leg-break, googly, and top-spin wittily. In addition, the snake shot with the blade in hand will be the icing on the cake for the Afghani fans.
Predicted Playing XIs
Afghanistan: Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Sediqullah Atal, Ibrahim Zadran, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi, Karim Janat, Rashid Khan ©, Azmatullah Omarzai, Noor Ahmad, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Fazalhaq Farooqi
Pakistan: Abdullah Shafique, Mohammad Haris (wk), Shan Masood, Azam Khan, Iftikhar Ahmed, Shadab Khan ©, Imad Wasim, Naseem Shah, Ihsanullah, Zaman Khan, Mohammad Wasim Jr
Afghanistan clearly seems to be the favorite in this series as they seem to possess a commendable lineup that has every answer to the opponent’s attack. The shorter dimensions and dew are likely to play a factor here.
The tourists are without their prominent individuals, and this could play a part here. Although one simply cannot write off this young line-up, Afghanistan would be a tough team to beat in their home conditions.