T20 World Cup: Pakistan aims to extend winning run against upbeat Afghanistan

PAK vs AFG, T20 World Cup 2021: Babar Azam's men will start as favourites against an Afghanistan side, which began its Super 12 campaign with a crushing 130-run win over Scotland.

Pakistan has played 13 T20Is in the UAE since 2016, winning each of them.   -  Getty Images

Pakistan will look to move closer to the ICC Twenty20 World Cup semifinal when it takes on Afghanistan in a Group 2 Super 12 game in Dubai on Friday.

Pakistan has played 13 T20Is in the UAE since 2016, winning each of them. So, Babar Azam's men will start as favourites against an Afghanistan side, which began its Super 12 campaign with a crushing 130-run win over Scotland.

In the last decade, Afghanistan has risen to become a worthy T20 World Cup competitor. Its mettle was on display in its first international match since the withdrawal of US troops and the Taliban's takeover. Najibullah Zadran hit a 30-ball 50, and Mujeeb Ur Rahman, with his cocktail of off-breaks, googlies and carrom balls, finished with 5 for 20, as Afghanistan pocketed two points.

READ: T20 World Cup: Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Afghanistan’s rising star

Such was its dominance that by the time Rashid Khan, the No 3-ranked T20I bowler in the world, came on to bowl, Afghanistan was already on course for a big win.

Its batters were equally impressive, racking up a total of 190 - its highest in a T20 World Cup. The innings comprised a whopping 13 fours and 11 sixes. Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Najibullah Zadran added a quickfire 87 for the third wicket. Plenty will be expected of the duo. Mohammad Shahzad's return as Hazratullah Zazai's opening partner has given the side a fillip.

But against Pakistan, Afghanistan batting will have to contend with a bowling attack of outstanding T20 pedigree and variety. Shaheen Afridi and Haris Rauf offer swing and pace while Hasan Ali and Imad Wasim bring the control. Then there's the wily leg-spin of Shadab Khan.

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Its batting is headlined by the in-form opening pair of Babar and Mohammad Rizwan. Shoaib Malik's experience came to the fore in the chase against New Zealand, and in Asif Ali, Pakistan has a reliable finisher.

"We want to give the kind of performances where fans back home could have joy, cheer for and celebrate," Rashid said before the match. Afghanistan will hope to bring more smiles to people's faces come Friday.

In this episode of Matchpoint Paradox, our correspondents Ayan Acharya and Amol Karhadkar review the latest from the T20 World Cup and other major updates from the world of cricket this past week.

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