WT20 : Proteas vs Afghanistan World T20 Preview
South Africa is eyeing a turnaround after its loss to England, while the Afghans are keen to topple one of the big sides
South Africa will be hoping for a better outing against Afghanistan at the Wankhede Stadium. When Afghanistan and South Africa met at the Kensington Oval in Barbados during the ICC World Twenty20 in 2010, the new kids on the cricket block slipped to 32 for 8 in pursuit of the Proteas’ modest 139 for 7. But Hamid Hassan, who had bowled magnificently for figures of 3 for 21, and Mirwais Ashraf stretched the game till the 16th over as Afghanistan bowed out of its first global event with 80 on the board.
Afterwards, Nawroz Mangal, the captain, was disarmingly honest about the challenge his batsmen had faced against the pace of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Charl Langeveldt, who finished with combined figures of 9 for 38 from ten overs.
“They were really quick, bowling at 90mph and there was swing as well so it was very difficult for our batsmen to face them,” he said. “They got early wickets and took the game away from us.”
Mangal and Ashraf are not part of the squad for the ICC World Twenty20 2016, but Hassan is, though the passage of time and injuries have meant that he isn’t quite as quick as he once was. The stereotypes about the team being one that bowls fast and whacks sixes are also outdated. Against Sri Lanka, in a match it might have won with better fielding, the most effective bowlers wereMohammad Nabi, the former captain, with his offspin, and Rashid Khan, the 17-year-old leggie.
Asghar Stanikzai, the current captain, who made 62 in that game at Eden Gardens, showed both patience and the ability to build an innings. It wasn’t till the innings had been stabilised after some early wobbles that the really big strokes were dusted off. At the top of the order, Noor Ali Zadran had shown similar application against the new ball.
At the Wankhede Stadium, the team is likely to find conditions much to its liking. The batsmen have had a picnic in both the matches thus far, and it’s spin rather than pace that’s been most effective in controlling the run-rate. There was a big grin on Stanikzai’s face when asked about playing in Mumbai, though both he and his players would do well to be wary of a South African attack with points to prove after a poor display against England.
Steyn went for 35 in his two overs, and the lack of discipline (20 wides) cost South Africa dearly as England chased down 230 with two balls to spare. The batsmen didn’t do much wrong, though Faf du Plessis, the captain, will hope for a better outing after a stuttering 17-ball 17 that allowed England to breathe after the frenetic start provided by Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla.
Afghanistan has already achieved one of its pre-tournament objectives by making it to the Super 10s. But as Stanikzai said at his pre-match media interaction, the team is confident that it can upset one of the big boys, having come close to surprising Sri Lanka in Kolkata.
South Africa has a five-day break after the Afghanistan game, before it rounds off its commitments with matches against West Indies (Nagpur) and Sri Lanka (Delhi). No panic buttons will be pushed, though Aaron Phangiso may come into the mix if the team decided to move away from the four-seamer strategy.
Almost exactly ten years ago, after England had won a Test match against India at the Wankhede, a Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) team led by Mike Gatting took on Afghanistan at the Police Gymkhana Ground, a kilometre further down Marine Drive. Nabi scored a century that day, peppering the Western Railway track with sixes, as a motley crew of players – many of whom had learnt the game in refugee camps in Pakistan – announced themselves to the world.
These days, they’re hitting sixes into the Sachin Tendulkar Stand during practice. From obscurity to the top table. And Stanikzai and his boys are determined to ensure that they stay there.
Afghanistan: Asghar Stanikzai (capt), Noor Ali Zadran, Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Usman Ghani, Mohammad Nabi, Karim Sadiq, Shafiqullah, Rashid Khan, Amir Hamza, Dawlat Zadran, Shapoor Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Samiullah Shenwari, Najibullah Zadran, Hamid Hassan.
South Africa: Quinton de Kock (wk), Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis (capt), JP Duminy, David Miller, Chris Morris, Kyle Abbott, Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, Farhaan Behardien, David Wiese, Aaron Phangiso, Rilee Rossouw.