Gutsy Afghanistan look to overcome South African-shaped hurdle

Aiden Markram would be hoping to lead the side from the front. PC – ICC

A little more than 15 years ago, Afghanistan were part of World Cricket League Division 5. If you time-travel back to the present, they have not only beaten a formidable opponent like Australia, but also progressed to the semifinals of the T20 World Cup. It is a remarkable achievement for a country ravaged by war. Can Afghanistan’s Cinderella-like story continue? Will they go all the way and lift the coveted trophy? For that to happen, first they have to overcome a South Africa-shaped hurdle.

The best thing about Afghanistan is the variety in their bowling attack. There was a time when they were known mainly for their potent spinners. Now, they have added enough teeth in their seam attack too. With his left-arm angle and swing, Fazalhaq Farooqi has made early inroads with the new ball. Meanwhile, Naveen-ul-Haq and Gulbadin Naib have kept it simple by bowling stump-to-stump lines and extracting just enough nip from the wicket.

Among the batters, Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran are first and third in the batting charts for most runs in this World Cup. Even though their strike-rates would come under some scrutiny, the duo have provided solid starts at the top of the order. South Africa, their opponent, have won all their seven games so far, though they have had to scrape through in most of those matches.

The silver lining for South Africa is that  they have been able to close out all those hard-fought matches. So, the confidence, especially in the bowling group, must be quite high. Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje have shored up the attack in the slog overs. Marco Jansen has also lifted his game at crucial junctures. Tabraiz Shamsi and Keshav Maharaj, the spin pair, have also made an impact at various stages of the competition.

Having said that, South Africa’s batters have found it rather difficult to get into a groove. They don’t have a single player in the top-15 run-getters in the tournament. All eyes would be on Aiden Markram, who has looked especially out of sorts. His captaincy and fielding have been on point, but the skipper should also lead from the front with the willow in hand.

Remember, neither South Africa nor Afghanistan have reached the final of a cricket World Cup. The one small difference is this is Afghanistan first World Cup semi-final, while South Africa have suffered enough heartbreaks. Will that play on the minds of South African players? One has to wait and watch for the action to begin.

Probable XIs


Ibrahim Zadran, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Azmatullah Omarzai, Gulbadin Naib, Mohammad Nabi, Karim Janat, Najibullah Zadran, Rashid Khan (c), Nangeyalia Kharote, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Naveen-ul-Haq. 

South Africa

Reeza Hendricks, Qunton de Kock, Aiden Markram (c), Heinrich Klaasen, Tristan Stubbs, David Miller, Marco Jansen, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Tabraiz Shamsi.

Pitch and weather conditions

A few rain showers are expected in the morning, but it is set to relent as the day progresses. The track could be slightly on the slower side but the dimensions of the Brian Lara Stadium are relatively small. So, the batters might still end up shining in this contest.