When the fancied Indian team came to the World Cup, they didn’t know it would come down to this. Banking on Afghanistan for a place in the semifinals couldn’t have crossed the minds of either the Indian players or the fans, but for now, that’s what it is. Since last Sunday, when India lost their second match of the tournament to New Zealand, Kohli’s boys’ only hope of a comeback centred around how Rashid Khan & Co. would perform against the Kiwis.
If Afghanistan do beat New Zealand in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, India, with a healthy net run rate, will only need to beat minnows Namibia to make the semis as the second team from the group after Pakistan, ahead of both Afghanistan and New Zealand.
But how realistic is Afghanistan’s chance against New Zealand? The Kiwis have won three games, but in their last match against Namibia, there was a period when they looked a little vulnerable. Even if we don’t give too much credence to ‘the game of glorious uncertainties’ cliché, it would be safe to say that we have seen bigger upsets in T20 cricket than Afghanistan beating New Zealand.
TOI takes a look at the factors that may give Afghanistan a whiff of a chance against organized NZ…
Afghan spin attack: The Kiwis, despite all their consistency, have had problems against quality spin. Barring Kane Williamson, the others may have difficulties dealing with the quality of Rashid, Mujeeb ur Rahman, who incidentally missed the last two games with a minor niggle, and Mohammed Nabi. All three have experience of playing in UAE and know how to use the conditions.
How Afghanistan batters deal with Boult & Co.: While the Afghan spinners are superior on paper, it’s the New Zealand pace attack led by Trent Boult which is head and shoulders above. Boult and Southee have the ability to swing the new ball and the Afghan top order has to put up some resistance.
Toss less of a factor: It’s a day match and the dew won’t play a part, as has been the case with most of the evening matches. That will mean the spinners will be in the game in both the innings. Though it can be a bit of a double-edged sword with the Kiwis having an allround attack, at least Rashid and Co won’t have to deal with a wet ball.
It will be interesting to see what Williamson does if he wins the toss, because he too will know how difficult it can be to chase against quality spin.
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