22 July 2015
PREVIEW: Last chance for Afghanistan, PNG
With a ticket to India as the reward for the winner, this match will test both skill and temperament
On the batting front, Mohammad Shahzad, the third leading run-scorer in the tournament with 199 runs, Samiullah Shenwari and Asghar Stanikzai, the skipper, are in fine fettle.
Following a spirited display at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, Afghanistan came into the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier 2015 carrying plenty of hope and expectation.
It lived up to its reputation by notching up three consecutive wins — against Scotland, Netherlands and United Arab Emirates — in Group B, but a loss to Oman and rained out games against Canada and Kenya pushed it to third on the table by the end of the group stage, meaning it would have to take the play-off route to qualify for the ICC World Twenty20 2016 in India.
Afghanistan needed to get the better of Hong Kong on Tuesday (July 21) to seal its berth but went down off the last delivery of the game. However, it still has another shot when it takes on Papua New Guinea, which finished fourth in Group A, on Thursday (July 23), with the winner going through to India.
Ireland and Scotland, by virtue of topping their respective spots, have been joined by Hong Kong and Netherlands, leaving four sides to battle it out for the two remaining places up for grabs.
The first of those two encounters, between Afghanistan and PNG in the third qualifying play-off, will be played at The Village in Malahide, Dublin, to be followed by the match between Namibia and Oman at the same venue later in the day.
Afghanistan will hope for yet another good display from its batting unit and a more disciplined show from the bowlers.
On the batting front, Mohammad Shahzad, the third leading run-scorer in the tournament with 199 runs, Samiullah Shenwari and Asghar Stanikzai, the skipper, are in fine fettle. Hamid Hassan and Mohammad Nabi have been the pick of the bowlers and there is plenty of quality within the ranks, but Afghanistan will have weigh up its options at the death.
PNG finished fourth in Group A by virtue of wins against Ireland, Jersey and Nepal, and has shown that it can compete with some of the more experienced sides on an equal footing.
Assad Vala has been PNG’s most successful batsmen with 124 runs, and Tony Ura has been effective with his quickfire cameos. Willie Gavera, the paceman, has been clinical with the ball, as has been Mahuru Dai.
Afghanistan has had a taste of the big stage and has been in such must-win, high-pressure games in the past, so it will look to call on all its experience to put it past PNG, for whom this is one of the biggest games in its cricketing history. PNG can take positives from an impressing run in the group stage, but with so much hinging on this result, it will be as much about nerve as about skill.
Afghanistan: Asghar Stanikzai (capt), Javed Ahmadi, Aftab Alam, Mirwais Ashraf, Sharafudin Ashraf, Hamid Hassan, Nawroz Mangal, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Shafiqullah Shafaq, Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Samiullah Shinwari, Dawlat Zadran, Najib Zadran, Shahpur Zadran.
Papua New Guinea: Jack Vare (capt, wk), Charles Amini, Sese Bau, John Boge Reva, Mahuru Dai, Willie Gavera, Loa Nou, Kila Pala, Pipi Raho, Lega Siaka, Chad Soper, Tony Ura, Vani Vagi, Assad Vala, Norman Vanua.