It will be a spin versus fierce seam attack when Nepal and Afghanistan lock horns in the sixth round fixture of ICC World Twenty20 Qualifiers in Sharjah on Friday.
Nepal are under pressure to deliver after winning two of their matches — against the Netherlands and Scotland — and to remain in hunt for the ICC World Twenty20 directly as group winners by defeating the Afghans and Bermuda.
Nepal will have 10 points in Group ‘B’ points table and to decide their World Twenty20 fate through group stage will have wait for Afghans final match against Kenya and two remaining matches of the Netherlands. Afghanistan and Netherlands have eight points each from five matches.
Though Afghanistan’s injury-prone pace bowler Hamid Hassan has not been able to play for their last four matches after making appearance against the Netherlands, Nepal’s batting line-up will still be tested hard by the swining pace of Shapoor Zardran and Dawlat Zadran. Hamid’s return will be a psychological edge for Afghanistan.
Nepali batsmen might have put runs against Denmark, Kenya and Papua New Guinea, they couldn’t do much against Netherlands and Scotland. Nepal’s sensational victory against Kenya in a chase of 180 plus runs was commendable but to overcome Afghanistan — whom they have never defeated in the shorter version of the game — will be all about defying their pace attack.
Afghansitan skipper Mohammed Nabi knows the strength of Nepal and would like his team to get the better of that. Afghanistan have been vulnerable against spin, a department where Nepal are superior. No doubt Friday’s match at the Sharjah is going to be Nepali spin versus Afghan’s firepower pace.
Coach Pubudu Dassanayake’s biggest concern would be the opening combination that has not done much in the tournament. After Pradeep Airee flopped in his first two matches, Dassanayake brought Sagar Pun to start the innings with Subash Khakurel but not much has been done by the former in the last three.
Pradeep played at No 7 against PNG and the Netherlands and didn’t get chance to bat. His return at No 1 spot cannot be ruled out today. While inclusion of Rahul Kumar BK in place of Amrit Bhattarai could be expected to go with more spinners against the Afghans.
Nepal vs Afghansitan Head-to-Head
2007 ACC Twenty20 :- Afghanistan won by six wickets
2011 ACC Twenty20 :- Afghanistan won by nine wickets (16 overs)
2012 ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier :- Afghanistan won by 34 runs
2013 ACC Twenty20 Cup :- Afghanistan won by seven wickets