Fortunes of well-matched teams to diverge

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There is a remarkable similarity in the route Afghanistan and Scotland have taken in this tournament so far. They registered big wins against each other in the two games they played in the UAE this January. Both won a game against their fellow Associate in the warm-up stage while losing to the established opposition. Both went on to lose their first two matches in the group stage, Afghanistan succumbing to a heavy defeat against Bangladesh before stretching Sri Lanka in their second game and Scotland taking seven wickets against New Zealand in defence of a small total before losing heavily against England.

The two games where both came closest to registering their respective maiden World Cup wins were played at the University Oval in Dunedin. So it will be in Dunedin where the similarities will end. One of them will not only achieve a first, they will also move up from the bottom of the table and keep that faint chance of making it through to the knockouts a possibility.

The pitch at the University Oval is marked as flat, but it has aided the seamers from both sides; Iain Wardlaw and Josh Davey picked up three New Zealand wickets each while Hamid Hassan collected three against Sri Lanka. So it could come down to which team’s batting is able to counter the seamers better. On paper, Scotland have more solidity through the order while Afghanistan’s is in the middle, and Scotland have broken the back of it recently – in January this year, they bowled Afghanistan out in 18.3 overs in an ODI in the UAE.

Understated and quiet, Scotland will know this is their chance to score a point over players who have leapfrogged them long ago to become the poster boys of Associate cricket. However, that Scotland have played two World Cups in the past to Afghanistan’s two matches is of little bearing. Both teams start on an even keel.

Form guide

Afghanistan LLWLL(last five matches, most recent first)

Scotland LLWLL

In the spotlight

Dawlat Zadran was left out from Afghanistan’s opening game against Bangladesh but the way he started against Sri Lanka – striking first ball – showed he has been itching to get into action. Dawlat has pace to rattle most batsmen but it’s the swing that Sri Lanka found tough to handle. He may have taken only one wicket, but he set the tone of the game in his first spell. Another of those spells could fire up the whole bowling attack again.

Majid Haq’s offspin is slow. Very slow. Tossing up deliveries at less than 80mph, he messed up with England’s batsmen’s instincts by giving them too much time. Moeen Ali hit a century but could only toe-end a slog to deep midwicket. Others waited reluctantly in the crease. Afghanistan’s batsmen like to hit out and it would be interesting to see the approach they take.

Teams news

Shafiqullah to replace injured Mirwais

Wicketkeeper-batsman Shafiqullah will replace the injured Mirwais Ashraf in the Afghanistan squad, after the latter picked up a side strain. The ICC’s event technical committee approved the change after Mirwais suffered the injury during Afghanistan’s match against Sri Lanka.

Shafiqullah last played an ODI for Afghanistan in December 2014 and had been named as one of the standbys when the World Cup squad was picked in December.

Mirwais Ashraf has been ruled out after the injury which forced him off the field against Sri Lanka, even though he was able to return later. Aftab Alam, who played the opening match against Bangladesh, could return to replace him. There remains debate over the opening pair and the absence of Usman Ghani.

Afghanistan (probable) 1 Javed Ahmadi, 2 Nawroz Mangal, 3 Asghar Stanikzai, 4 Samiullah Shenwari, 5 Mohammad Nabi (capt), 6 Najibullah Zadran, 7 Afsar Zazai (wk) 8 Aftab Alam, 9 Dawlat Zadran, 10 Hamid Hassan, 11 Shapoor Zadran

Even though Scotland’s fifth bowler leaked runs against England, they might not tinker with the current XI. That would mean Matt Machan, Richie Berrington and Kyle Coetzer will again be required to share 10 overs between them.

Scotland (probable) 1 Kyle Coetzer, 2 Calum McLeod, 3 Freddie Coleman, 4 Matt Machan, 5 Preston Mommsen (capt), 6 Richie Berrington, 7 Mathew Cross (wk), 8 Josh Davey, 9 Alasdair Evans, 10 Majid Haq, 11 Iain Wardlaw

Pitch and conditions

The morning start and and a high of around 16 degrees point to bowl-first conditions and that’s what has happened in the previous two matches. However, the pitch does offer batsmen chance to score if the sun is out.

Stats and trivia

Scotland played their first World Cup appearance in 1999. Afghanistan cricket was affiliated with the ICC two years later

Edinburgh is Dùn Èideann (or Dunedin) in gaelic so it is clear which side will feel at home

Josh Davey’s 6 for 28 against Afghanistan this January are the best bowling figures in ODIs among Associates

Majid Haq is the leading Scotland wicket-taker with 59 wickets. Hamid Hassan has 51 – the most by an Afghanistan bowler

Quotes

“It’s very important for us, especially because both sides are Associate members. Hopefully we beat Scotland strongly, so we looking forward.”

Javed Ahmadi knows this is the type of match Afghanistan have to win

“We’ve played a lot of cricket against them in recent times, and we know that they do have good ammunition in their pace attack. We expect them to use their skills.”

Preston Mommsen knows that Afghanistan’s quicks will be a threat

stify;line-height:normal;background:white’>He said that “fatwa” of “kufar” and killing in the name of Islam are not appropriate nor the government will allow such “fatwas”.

 

He said that with the consultation of the Apex Committee, 43 cases of terrorism have been sent to the federal government to be referred to the military courts, out of which, ten have been finalised.