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World Cup 2019, Match36- PAK Vs AFG, Preview: Pakistan’s Battle To Keep The Semi-Final Hopes Alive

“The Afghans are still searching for their first victory of the World Cup.”

After the busy week day single-game fun, it is now time to shift focus towards the exciting double-header Saturday of the ICC World Cup 2019, wherein first Pakistan will be locking horns with Afghanistan at the Headingley in Leeds. Both the teams are coming into this game after witnessing contrasting results unfold in their respective previous outings.

Pakistan are coming off a sensational win against New Zealand, while Afghanistan suffered a defeat at the hands of Bangladesh in the last match. Afghanistan have been knocked out of the tournament already, while Pakistan is very much alive in the race to the knockouts stage.

After a disastrous run in the first-half of the 2019 World Cup, the Pakistan team has started to wreck havoc. After knocking out South Africa from the mega event, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Co ended New Zealand’s unbeaten streak in the tournament at the Edgbaston in Birmingham.

The Men in Green have parked aside the disappointment and have started punching above their weights. However, they are yet to drag themselves out of jail.

It’s known that the Pakistan can’t afford to put a foot wrong. They lost to the same opposition in the warm-up stage a month ago, but this Pakistan team is a confident unit after back-to-back victories. The Afghans are still searching for their first victory of the World Cup and they need to pull out something special if they are to get over the line in the next encounter.

Pakistan’s likely Playing XI

Pakistan is unlikely to change their winning combination from the last game. Babar Azam and Haris Sohail are in jaw-dropping form and the duo needs to carry this forward for the team to continue its dream run. There is a bit of concern over Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman’s returns. Both the batters have looked promising with some scorching strokes in the powerplay. But none has been able to play a big knock thus far.

Mohammad Hafeez should focus on not giving his wicket to part-time spinners after getting his eyes in. In the bowling department, Shaheen Shah Afridi’s return to form is a massive breather for the team. Even Shadab Khan is starting to get amongst the wickets. Imad Wasim is yet to pick up a wicket, but he is Pakistan’s most economical bowler. Amir and Wahab also need to keep bowling with ferocity.

Probable XI: Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Haris Sohail, Sarfaraz Ahmed (c & wk), Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir, Shaheen Shah Afridi.

Afghanistan’s likely Playing XI

The Afghans don’t have many alternatives from which they can choose. Dawlat Zadran has looked a tad rusty in the last couple of games and left-arm seamer Sayed Shirzad can be included in his place. Shirzad was roped in as a replacement for Aftab Alam, who has been sent back home ‘in exceptional circumstances’ after breaching ICC’s disciplinary code of conduct. Samiullah Shinwari will also retain his place after his 49*.

Gulbadin Naib has done well with the bat, but he needs to learn how to rotate the strike when the boundaries are hard to come by. Hashmatullah Shahidi and Rahmat Shah, two of their most reliable batters, need to be on top of the games. A lot will also depend on how Asghar Afghan, Mohammad Nabi and Najibullah Zadran deliver. Mujeeb has done exceptionally thus far, especially with the new ball. Rashid needs to be a bit more penetrative.

Probable XI: Gulbadin Naib (c), Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Asghar Afghan, Mohammad Nabi, Samiullah Shinwari, Najibullah Zadran, Ikram Ali Khil (wk), Rashid Khan, Dawlat Zadran/Sayed Shirzad, Mujeeb Ur Rahman.

Match Timings- 3:00 pm IST and 10:30 local

Broadcast Details- Star Sports 1, Star Sports 1 HD.