Pakistan have won their last two matches and would be hoping for maximum points against Afghanistan
Pakistan are high on optimism after back-to-back victories over South Africa and New Zealand and would like to carry forward the winning momentum when they face Afghanistan at Headingley on Saturday in a bid to qualify for the World Cup 2019 semi-finals. Bottom-placed Afghanistan have lost all seven matches that they have played so far and have no scope of making it to semi-finals. However, they might play spoilsport for Pakistan, especially after giving top-ranked India a scare in their World Cup encounter.
Staring at possible league stage elimination after three defeats and a washout, Pakistan staged a remarkable comeback with consecutive wins to keep their hopes alive.
A couple of losses for hosts England only brightened the 1992 winners’ prospects of a semi-final berth.
There were quite a few positives from the six-wicket victory over New Zealand, with Babar Azam’s century and Shaheen Afridi’s five-wicket haul being the most prominent ones.
The current team will also hope that it is able to make the similarities with the country’s 1992 campaign even more striking.
Given the way the tournament has so far panned out for Pakistan, it is impossible to ignore the parallels with Imran Khan’s team, which also affected a stunning turnaround on way to winning the title.
Pakistan’s rally and England’s reverses have opened up the tournament but the players will do well to not worry about other results.
If Pakistan beat Afghanistan and Bangladesh, chances of reaching the last four could increase.
The inclusion of Haris Sohail at the expense of the miserably out-of-form Shoaib Malik has lent both stability and flair to Pakistan’s batting.
Left-arm pacer Shaheen Afridi has added firepower to their bowling that is led by Mohammad Amir.
Afghanistan, who came close to causing the tournament’s biggest upset against India, have won hearts with their spirited showings, but they would have wanted to do better.
A win over a big cricketing nation like Pakistan would be a positive to exit the big stage, and the likes of Rashid Khan and Gulbadin Naib are aware of that.
Pakistan: Sarfaraz Ahmed (capt/wk), Fakhar Zaman, Imam ul Haq, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Hasan Ali, Shahdab Khan, Mohammed Hafeez, Mohammed Hasnain, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Wahab Riaz, Mohammed Aamir, Shoaib Malik, Imad Wasim, Asif Ali.
Afghanistan: Gulbadin Naib (capt), Sayed Ahmad Shirzad, Hazratullah Zazai, Asghar Afghan, Rashid Khan, Mohammed Nabi, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Dawlat Zadran, Najibullah Zadran, Hamid Hassan, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Samiullah Shinwari, Rahmat Shah, Noor Ali Zadran, Ikram Ali Khil (wk).
The match starts at 3pm IST