WT20 : Zimbabwe V Afghanistan, World T20 Preview
Plenty at stake, as winner of the clash will earn passage to the Super 10s phase
It will be a winner-takes-all Group B clash when Afghanistan meets Zimbabwe at the ICC World Twenty20 2016 on Saturday (March 12).
The side that emerges triumphant will top Group B and make it through to the Super 10s, with both Afghanistan and Zimbabwehaving beaten Hong Kong and Scotland in their previous matches.
The man to watch out for, based on recent form, is Mohammad Shahzad, the Afghanistan opener who can pack a punch in his shots. He smashed 61 from 39 balls in Afghanistan’s opening win against Scotland, and then came up with a more mature 40-ball 41 in awin against Hong Kong. The second win was more about Mohammad Nabi’s four-wicket haul, but Zimbabwe will be wary, because the man who has so often scattered its bowling with his broad blade showed that he could bottle down too.
That aside, Shahzad has scored 209 runs, including a 67-ball 118, in four T20Is, and made 413 runs from 10 One-Day Internationals against Zimbabwe. Those are numbers Zimbabwe will be aware of.
But Zimbabwe’s bowling line-up is more experienced and incisive than the other teams in Group B, and the likes of Tinashe Panyangara, Donald Tiripano and Tendai Chatara have the pace and the discipline to stymie Shahzad’s run-scoring ways. They will need to be far more on-the-dot with their lines, lengths, and variation in pace when it comes to Shahzad – because anything too full or slightly short, the ball is either breaking side-boards or is crashing into empty stands.
Wellington Masakadza, Sean Williams and Sikandar Raza will have some assistance on a slowish pitch, but Shahzad is far from averse to using his feet against spin. Zimbabwe might give Wellington, who picked up 4 for 28 against Scotland, a few overs to see how Shahzad handles him if he is still around.
Shahzad will be the main draw, but Noor Ali Zadran, Mohammad Nabi, Asghar Stanikzai and Najibullah Zadran can also hold their own in Afghanistan’s batting line-up. None of them are as aggressive with the bat, but they all can string together useful partnerships.
That apart, Zimbabwe also possesses an adept batting unit. It doesn’t have anyone quite as destructive as Shahzad up front, but Hamilton Masakadza, the skipper, on his day can be a force to reckon with. A monstrous presence at the crease, Hamilton can put even the clinical Afghanistan bowling to the sword on a good day. Unfortunately, he ran himself out after looking in exceptional touch in the first game and was run out in the second match too. The second run out, which saw Hamilton colliding with Vusi Sibanda, could have ended Sibanda’s tournament if the gash on his chin was any deeper.
Fortunately, the 32-year-old who is in fine fettle, has had four stitches and should be part of the eleven come Saturday. Besides Hamilton and Sibanda, Williams, Malcolm Waller and Elton Chigumbura have been getting the necessary runs lower down the order.
On the other hand, Afghanistan’s bowling has made steady ground. After conceding a few runs to Scotland’s top order, Afghanistan reverted to bowling wicket-to-wicket against Hong Kong and reaped the rewards. The other good news for Afghanistan is that Hamid Hassan, who was out for a couple of months because of a thigh injury, has returned. Then there is Dawlat Zadran, Samiullah Shenwari, Nabi and Rashid Khan to do more damage.
Afghanistan has been on the rise in recent years. Zimbabwe, however, has shown it can be more than a match for the Asian side, and either of the two could make it to the next round.
Afghanistan: Asghar Stanikzai (captain), 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.
Zimbabwe: Hamilton Masakadza (capt), Sean Williams, Tendai Chatara, Wellington Masakadza, Tinashe Panyangara, Peter Moor, Elton Chigumbura, Sikandar Raza, Richmond Mutumbami (wk), Tendai Chisoro, Malcolm Waller, Vusi Sibanda, Donald Tiripano, Chamu Chibhabha, Tawanda Mupariwa.