England faces Afghanistan test

Having the experience of shock losses against rank underdogs in ICC tournaments, England will not be complacent when it faces a pugnacious Afghanistan at the Ferozeshah Kotla on Wednesday.

Joe Root (right) has top-scored for England in both matches the team has played in the tournament so far.   -  AP

England will look to get past an unpredictable Afghanistan without a hint of complacency. After all, England’s history in World T20 shows that it has paid the price, more than once, when it faced a rank underdog. Usually, whenever a frontline cricketing nation faces ICC’s Associate member, the winner is easy to guess. Given England’s robust run-chase against South Africa in Mumbai, the former champion looks an obvious favourite.

However, two defeats to Netherlands in World T20 should serve as a crude reminder to England that will take the field at the Ferozeshah Kotla with guarded optimism on Wednesday.

>Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai requests ICC to act pay heed to observations from Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara, and support the Associate cause more.

It is only in England's interest that it remains wary of Afghanistan’s never-say-die spirit, a glimpse of which the cricketing world saw the other night against South Africa.

The England bowling, made to look ordinary at the Wankhede Stadium by West Indies following Chris Gayle’s calculated assault, is still a worry for skipper Eoin Morgan. Though the Delhi pitch will be different from the ‘belter’ seen in Mumbai, the roles of offspinner Moeen Ali and legspinner Adil Rashid should remain unchanged. Among the pace bowlers, none has looked so far in the competition.

Root the star

It is England’s batting that looks to be hitting form. Joe Root is the obvious star of the campaign so far after guiding the team to a memorable win over South Africa. A cricketer in the classical mould, Root has impressed one and all with his stroke-making in all formats of the game. Coming in No. 4, Root has the ability to not only lend solidity to middle order but also bat with the lower order till the end. Root’s utility in this English side cannot be discounted.

Afghanistan, on the other hand, is busy collecting compliments for its spirited displays. The way Mohammad Shahzad went after the South African quicks – minus Dale Steyn – it was a clear warning signal for the Proteas to get their power-play bowling in order.

Lack of experience is surely a handicap for Afghanistan. But then, the side is in the competition to make an impression and is not a title-contender. In the shorter format of the game, the underdogs fancy their chances and Afghanistan is no different.

Guided by Pakistan’s Inzamam-ul-Haq and local-resident Manoj Prabhakar, Afghanistan is showing great promise in this format. It will be interesting if Afghanistan can bring England under pressure. After all, England has more at stake on Wednesday than its rival.

The teams (from):

England: Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Ben Stokes, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali, Chris Jordan, David Willey, Adil Rashid and Reece Topley, Sam Billings, Liam Dawson, Liam Plunkett and James Vince.

Afghanistan: Mohammad Shahzad, Noor Ali Zadran, Asghar Stanikzai, Gulbadain Naib, Samiullah Shenwari, Najibullah Zadran, Rashid Khan, Dawlat Zadran, Amir Hamza, Shapoor Zadran, Karim Sadiq, Hamid Hassan, Mohammad Nabi and Usman Ghani.

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