Gurbaz and Zadran Redefine the Art of T20 Batting for Afghanistan

The Gurbaz-Ibrahim partnership has been one of Afghanistan’s keys to success in this World Cup. (PC:

Who would have imagined at the start of the World Cup that Rahmanullah Gurbaz would emerge as the leading run-scorer, or that Afghanistan’s opening pair would be the most successful duo, outshining the likes of Kohli-Rohit, Head-Warner, and Buttler-Salt? Likewise, who could have predicted Afghanistan’s victories over New Zealand and Australia to secure a spot in the semi-finals? All odds have been defied at this year’s World Cup.

Certain stories resonate deeply because they redefine the boundaries of passion and improvement. Afghanistan’s journey in this tournament is one such story. It has been a collective effort from the Afghan team. Early on, Fazalhaq Farooqi dominated with the ball, and more recently, Naveen-ul-Haq has stepped up. Gulbadin Naib’s game-changing spell against Australia and Rashid Khan’s demolition of Bangladesh’s middle order were highlights. Different heroes have emerged on different days.

But what about their batting? To be honest, it has been a two-man show for Afghanistan. Their openers have shouldered the bulk of the scoring, effectively carrying their team to the semi-finals. Gurbaz, with 281 runs, and Ibrahim Zadran, with 229 runs, are the highest and third-highest run-scorers, respectively, in the 2024 T20 World Cup. Azmatullah Omarzai, with 101 runs, is the only other Afghan player to have scored over 100 runs in this edition.

The duo began the competition with consecutive 100-run stands but faltered in the subsequent two matches. Their first successful partnership was against tournament newcomers Uganda, and the second against New Zealand’s formidable bowling attack. In their first Super 8 game against India, Afghanistan decided to split the partnership, sending Hazratullah Zazai to open with Gurbaz while Zadran moved to No. 3.

This strategy backfired spectacularly, as Afghanistan lost all three top-order batsmen within 25 deliveries for just 23 runs. They went on to lose the match by 47 runs. Realising their mistake, Afghanistan quickly reunited the pair for the must-win game against Australia.

The pitch at Arnos Vale Ground in Saint Vincent presented a significant challenge with its two-paced nature, making it difficult for Gurbaz and Zadran at the start of their innings. Despite numerous plays and misses, Afghanistan managed to reach 11/0 after 3.5 overs. Struggling to find boundaries, the duo cleverly ran 10 twos and 26 singles, along with hitting 10 fours and four sixes. Their resilience paid off, as they put up 118 runs off 95 deliveries, giving Afghanistan a defendable total on a slow pitch.

For a naturally aggressive batter like Gurbaz to not play his natural game just for the team’s sake tells you that he may be just 22 years old, but he’s showing that he’s ahead of his years. Similarly, one should acknowledge the way Zadran has batted. He has complemented Gurbaz’s aggression with his steady and calculated approach. Zadran’s technique and temperament have been crucial in building substantial partnerships, ensuring that the momentum established by Gurbaz was sustained.

Together, they’ve amassed 442 runs in this T20 World Cup, setting a new record for the most by a pair in a single edition, surpassing the 411 runs scored by Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan in 2021. The numbers tell the story: Gurbaz and Zadran have emerged as the tournament’s most successful opening pair, consistently providing solid starts.

In a tournament where batting has been challenging, the duo ran the fielders ragged, accumulating 108 singles, 36 doubles, and even a triple. To put that in perspective, no other partnership ran more than 20 doubles, with the second-highest being 15 doubles by Phil Salt and Jos Buttler.

This highlights how much the pair valued running between the wickets, nearly as much as finding boundaries, which account for close to 50 per cent of their 442 runs. Throughout the tournament, they have maintained an effective balance between aggressive boundary-hitting and smart running between the wickets.

As Afghanistan prepare to face South Africa in the semi-finals, the nation’s hopes rest partly on the shoulders of Gurbaz and Zadran. Their ability to rise to the occasion and deliver under pressure will be crucial in determining Afghanistan’s fate in the tournament. Regardless of the outcome, their contributions have already secured their place in Afghan cricketing folklore.