World Cup 2019 Pakistan to must-win game against Afghanistan

Pakistan will be looking to stay in the hunt of a semi-final spot as they take on Afghanistan on Saturday in 36th match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, scheduled to be played at Headingley Cricket Ground in Leeds, England.

The match will start at 2:30pm (PST) and am 10.30 GMT, 09.30am local.

Fans from both sides of the border between war-weary nation Afghanistan and Pakistan will watch this World Cup match most intensely.

Pakistan cannot afford any more slip-ups, needing to win their final two matches to retain a realistic chance of reaching the semi-finals.

Pakistan: Sarfaraz is unlikely to change his playing XI, unless enforced by an injury, as the combination has worked very well for him over the wins against South Africa and New Zealand.

Probable XI: Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Haris Sohail, Sarfaraz Ahmed (c&wk), Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir, Shaheen Afridi

Afghanistan: Team Afghanistan’s spinners took only 8 wickets in their first five games. The last two games, on drier surfaces, have seen their spinners bag 9 wickets. The captain is difficult to anticipate what change he might do to his team today.

Probable XI: Gulbadin Naib (c), Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Asghar Afghan/Hazratullah Zazai, Mohammad Nabi, Samiullah Shinwari, Najibullah Zadran, Ikram Ali Khil (wk), Rashid Khan, Dawlat Zadran, Mujeeb Ur Rahman

Pakistan have a 4-5 win-loss record at Headingley in ODI contests. In World Cup games however, ther have a winning 3-2 record here.

Afghanistan have lost the most wickets – 47 – to fast bowlers in this World Cup.

Afghanistan, appearing in just their second World Cup since their debut in 2015, are playing for pride after losing all seven of their matches so far. Many Afghanistan players learned the game growing up as refugees in Pakistan.

‘We learnt a lot of cricket in Pakistan’

Afghanistan captain Gulbadin Naib diminished political tensions between the two countries, saying that he hoped cricket could build bridges.

“If you look at our cricket, we learnt a lot of cricket in Pakistan and we also played cricket in Pakistan,” Naib said. “We are also hoping cricket is one thing that can keep a good relationship for anyone, any other country. So I am hoping that not only with Pakistan, but with India, Sri Lanka and other countries.”

Pakistan keeping close eye on Afghanistan’s spinners

Pakistan have spared no effort in their preparations to take on Afghanistan’s spinners in Saturday’s World Cup clash that could be crucial to their hopes of making the semi-finals, batsman Haris Sohail said on the eve of the contest.

Back-to-back wins against South Africa and New Zealand have given the former champions a chance of making the knockouts but they must beat Afghanistan and Bangladesh in their final two games and hope other results go their way to advance.

Sohail, who was dropped after their opening defeat by West Indies but returned to the side scoring 89 and 68 in the last two matches, said Pakistan had to keep a close eye on spinners Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman who could hurt their chances.

“We’ve kept it very simple. We’re going from match to match. They have quality spinners and we’ve seen a lot of videos and we’ve worked from them. And hopefully we’ll see a good match,” Sohail told reporters.

Sohail scored only one run when Pakistan lost their warm-up match to Afghanistan last month, but the 30-year-old said he had no doubts about his ability on the big stage.

“From the last series against Australia I have been playing very well, and this time they’ve given me the different role… bat at four or five,” Sohail added.

“I’m going with my plan and we have to assess the situation and I will play accordingly.”

Meanwhile, Afghanistan skipper Gulbadin Naib said his team will fancy their chances on a Headingley wicket that could assist his spinners.

Afghanistan are looking to finish on a high after losing all their seven games.

“If you look at similar conditions, it is certainly in our favour, it’s good for our spinners,” he said.

“Sohail played really well in the last two games and Babar Azam too. Rashid is a different spinner, a different bowler to other spinners. So it’s difficult to pick him.”

ICC approves Shirzad as Alam’s replacement in Afghanistan squad

Afghanistan’s Sayed Ahmad Shirzad has been approved as fellow paceman Aftab Alam’s replacement for the remainder of the World Cup, the International Cricket Council (ICC) said on Thursday.

The ICC said Alam, who had taken four wickets in three matches during the tournament, had been replaced under “under exceptional circumstances” without providing details.

Shirzad has played only one ODI in his career but is in line to feature in Afghanistan’s remaining two games against Pakistan today and West Indies on July 4.

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