Pak aim to reignite semifinal hopes against Afghanistan

Chennai, (UNI) A bright start for Pakistan has been dulled by back-to-back losses but they now have an opportunity to reignite their semifinal hopes against familiar foes Afghanistan.

Pakistan made light work of Netherlands and Sri Lanka for a strong start to their ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 campaign but have since fallen short in tougher tests against India and Australia.

The back-to-back losses leave Pakistan with little margin for error as they chase the six victories likely needed to secure passage to the knockout stage of the Cricket World Cup.

Afghanistan come at the right time for a Pakistan outfit needing to find form quickly, with an unblemished 7-0 record in their previous ODI clashes sure to boost their confidence.

Pakistan have brushed aside Afghanistan in almost all of those matches, though were pushed all the way when the teams met in a 50-over encounter just two months ago.

Afghanistan amassed 300 in that match in Hambantota as openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran put Pakistan to the sword and compiled 157 for the first wicket.

An assured 91 from Imam-ul-Haq steered Pakistan toward victory but it was only sealed with one wicket and one ball remaining.

Gurbaz made 151 in that close contest and has since starred on the big stage with a quickfire 80 against England that set up Afghanistan’s rousing victory at the Cricket World Cup.

Pakistan will need to be wary of the same openers putting Afghanistan on the path toward another shock win, though spinners Rashid Khan and Mujeeb ur Rahman also loom large on a match-up with much on the line.

Shaheen Afridi led the resistance against a rampant Australia outfit to reveal how crucial he will be through the rest of the tournament to Pakistan hopes of progressing to the semi-finals.

The 23-year-old overcame a relatively slow start to the Cricket World Cup, and reportedly illness on the eve of the clash with Australia, but stepped up to take 5/54 even with Pakistan on the ropes after many early blows.

Those figures pushed Afridi to nine scalps for the tournament to be among the leading wicket-takers even with some room left for improvement.

The left-arm quick can strike fear in batters with his express pace and will face a gripping battle with the Afghanistan openers that tend to have a huge say on their team’s hopes.

Afridi is only just starting to hit his straps in India but with another commanding performance should be ready to launch into bigger – and, Pakistan will hope, more important – tests to come.

The Afghanistan opener is one of the rising stars of white-ball cricket and put all of his potential on display at the Cricket World Cup in a match-defining knock against England.

Gurbaz hit a blazing 80 runs from only 57 balls to set up the stirring triumph over the defending champions, and looked set to notch a memorable century until run out.

The 21-year-old has made a start in all four of his innings so far at the Cricket World Cup, starting with a classy 47 in Afghanistan’s opening match against Bangladesh.

But after missing out against New Zealand in their most recent match, Gurbaz appears to have unfinished business at this tournament which will leave Pakistan wary of his talents.

Whether the right-hander’s next big innings comes against Pakistan or another upcoming opponent, Afghanistan’s hopes of clinching another win in India likely rest of his young shoulders.


Pakistan squad: Babar Azam (c), Shadab Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Abdullah Shafique, Mohammad Rizwan, Saud Shakeel, Iftikhar Ahmed, Salman Ali Agha, Mohammad Nawaz, Usama Mir, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Wasim.

Afghanistan squad: Hashmatullah Shahidi (c), Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Ibrahim Zadran, Riaz Hassan, Rahmat Shah, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi, Ikram Alikhil, Azmatullah Omarzai, Rashid Khan, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Noor Ahmad, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Abdul Rahman, Naveen ul Haq.

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