PAK vs AFG Asia Cup 2022 Super 4: Three key player battles

Afghanistan’s spin duo of Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Rashid Khan could be a handful for Pakistan’s top-order, while middle-overs spin hitters Mohammad Nawaz and Khushdil Shah could neutralise the threat.

Here are three key matchups that could influence the Pakistan versus Afghanistan Asia Cup Super 4 match in Sharjah on Wednesday.

Here are three key matchups that could influence the Pakistan versus Afghanistan Asia Cup Super 4 match in Sharjah on Wednesday. | Photo Credit:

Afghanistan’s spin duo of Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Rashid Khan could be a handful for Pakistan’s top-order, while middle-overs spin hitters Mohammad Nawaz and Khushdil Shah could neutralise the threat.

Afghanistan will take on Pakistan for the first time in this edition of the Asia Cup when the two teams meet in a Super 4 match in Sharjah on Wednesday. A win will all but seal Pakistan’s place in the final - and knock India out - while Afghanistan needs to win stay alive in the competition.

Here are three key matchups that could influence tonight’s game.

READ | Pakistan vs Afghanistan Asia Cup 2022 Super 4 today: India’s hopes ride on Afghan win

Mohammad Rizwan vs Mujeeb Ur Rahman

Pakistan opener Rizwan is currently the highest run-scorer in this year’s Asia Cup. He has 192 runs in three matches at an average of 96, including two back-to-back fifties against Hong Kong and India. With captain Babar Azam misfiring, Pakistan wanted a technically correct anchor player who would start slowly before accelerating. Rizwan has played that role to perfection so far. In the last match Pakistan played in Sharjah, Rizwan’s most productive shot was the flick through midwicket. Rizwan kept trying to sweep but struggled to find the right line for it. His matchup with Afghanistan’s PowerPlay specialist Mujeeb will set the tone of the match. Mujeeb has seven wickets in three games at an astounding economy rate of 5.83. Mujeeb’s ability to spin the ball both ways while varying his pace makes him a dangerous proposition for any side. With the pitch here likely to be two-paced - with the occasional low bounce - Rizwan will be wary of sweeping Mujeeb.

ALSO READ | Asia Cup 2022: Rashid Khan’s diminishing PowerPlay returns in T20s

Rashid Khan vs Babar Azam, Khushdil Shah and Mohammad Nawaz

Babar Azam has endured a rare poor start (33 runs in three matches) to the Asia Cup with the bat. His faceoff with leg-spinner Rashid Khan will be crucial, should Babar bat deep. In all T20s, Rashid has got Babar out five times and conceded just 59 runs. Meanwhile, Khushdil and Nawaz have been used as power-hitting options in the middle-to-lower order. The shift reveals much about Pakistan’s T20 strategy that’s relying on spin hitters in the middle overs. Essentially, there will be two reasons to exploit their role in the middle overs against Afghanistan.

The first is to shield the two left-handers against Mujeeb. The second - and the more challenging task - is to try and hit Rashid’s orthodox leg spin with the turn. That being said, Rashid also has a very deceptive googly which both southpaws need to keep an eye out for. Rashid is having a rare off-colour tournament with the ball so far - his figures (0/12 vs SL, 3/22 vs BD, 1/39 vs SL). Rashid doesn’t enjoy bowling in PowerPlay. In all T20s this year, he has gone at 7.94 runs an over and picked just two wickets while bowling inside the first six overs. So, Mohammad Nabi is likely to use his spin trump card in the middle overs and at the death.

ALSO READ | Can India qualify for Asia Cup 2022 final after Super 4 loss to Sri Lanka?

Pakistan pacers vs Afghanistan top-order

Najibullah Zadran, Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran have been Afghanistan’s batting mainstays in this tournament. Gurbaz struck a majestic 45-ball 84 against Sri Lanka in Sharjah the other night and would hope for more of the same. Najibullah and Ibrahim have given impetus in the middle-overs with their six-hitting abilities. Their faceoff with pacers Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf could dictate the direction of Afghanistan’s batting PowerPlay.

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