The Indian team will watch with bated breath as New Zealand faces Afghanistan in a T20 World Cup match, the result of which will decide the semifinal line-up from Group 2 on Sunday. Joining Team India in praying for an Afghan victory will be its billion-plus fans. A win for the Kiwis would shut India’s hopes of advancing to the last four as it would take them to eight points, putting things beyond the reach of Virat Kohli’s men. If Afghanistan manages to turn the tables on Kane Williamson & Co, it will keep alive their slim chances while boosting that of the Indians (on 4 points currently), who would need to win their last match with a good margin.
However, if the Kiwis secure a win, India’s final league game on Monday against Namibia will be rendered inconsequential. New Zealand will head into the match high on confidence after having eased to victory against Namibia on Friday. Jimmy Neesham and Glenn Phillips rose to the occasion after the top-order failed to fire and set up a challenging total that proved too much for the Namibian batters. The Kiwi bowlers’ experience and skills have been on show in the tournament and they would pose problems for the Afghan batters too and could decide the fate of Sunday’s contest.
The Afghanistan batters have come up with consistent performances which have helped the spin-heavy bowling unit go about their job with confidence. But they would be up against an attack that includes Trent Boult, Tim Southee, and the pacy Adam Milne, apart from the spin duo of Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner, which has troubled the batters right through the tourney. If the Afghan batters can put up a sizeable score, then the bowling unit with Rashid Khan at the forefront could be more than a handful. The absence of Mujeeb-ur-Rahman owing to injury could weaken the bowling department but given the Kiwi batters’ struggles against spin, a huge task awaits them.
Afghanistan is coming off a thrashing at the hands of India, and now they will take on New Zealand in their upcoming T20 World Cup game in what is a virtual quarterfinal for the sides. Afghanistan, who have so far played four games in the Super 12 stage, need to win this match against New Zealand if they have to hope of making it to the semi-finals. If Afghanistan does beat New Zealand, India has a chance to make it to the semi-finals, provided they beat Namibia in their last match.
New Zealand, on the other hand, convincingly beat Namibia in their last match and after their top order failed, the lower middle order – James Neesham & Glenn Phillips were superb and they will be keen to beat Afghanistan and make it to the top four. Powered by Trent Boult & Tim Southee, New Zealand have all the bases covered, and their spinners in Ish Sodhi & Michael Santner have been good in this tournament. Afghanistan, on the other hand, has the batters to challenge this bowling attack. Najibullah Zadran, Hazratullah Zazai & Rahmanullah Gurbaz can take off and pose a lot of worry for the New Zealand side.
How the New Zealand batters handle the middle overs when star spinner Rashid Khan would be in operation would have a huge say on how the match pans out and a good start by the powerful Martin Guptill and Daryl Mitchell could prove crucial as would skipper Williamson’s contribution. Though New Zealand and Afghanistan battle it out in Abu Dhabi, the Indian team in Dubai and its fans will be praying that the fellow Asian nation does it a favor by scripting a memorable victory to see their chances of surviving further in the marquee event.