England v Afghanistan World T20 Preview – Match 24
England to take a late call on going in with three spinners against Afghanistan, who is keen to beat a higher-ranked team
22 March 2016 18:22
England face Afghanistan on Wednesday
England arrived in Delhi with the expectation of more turn than had been on offer in Mumbai, and this was borne out by the practice pitches in the nets. This led, automatically towards a subcontinental line of thinking, where three spinners could be needed, bringing Liam Dawson and his left-arm orthodox into the mix.
Eoin Morgan, England’s captain, however, admitted he wasn’t entirely sure which way to go, and would take a call at the last possible moment. “I expected a dryer pitch. Lot of grass on it – still is at the moment,” said Morgan. “I don’t know what it’s going to do. We’ll have to leave it as late as possible to select the side, and see what conditions are going to be like. If it’s another hot day like today, [they] might leave grass on it rather than take it off.”
Morgan was quick to stress that his team was wary of the challenge posed by the non-Test side. “They’re a dangerous side. They played a really exciting brand of cricket. Ten years ago we might not have known much about them, but now that is the nature of modern sport. We know a lot about them and that is quite comforting the fact that there’s no stone that’s left unturned,” he said. “We watched the early stages of the tournament and they played some really good cricket. We watched both games, against Sri Lanka and South Africa in different circumstances, and it’s been nice for us to see what they’re about as a side.”
Morgan, having played for Ireland, knows a bit about what the mindset of an Associate team might be, coming up against a higher-ranked unit. “It will be their ultimate objective. It’s a bit like a pump-action shotgun. You can keep loading as long as you like. If you keep missing, it’s fine,” he said. “But the opportunity along the way will come. And if you have your day, you might win a game. That’s certainly the attitude when I was a part of Ireland.”
England has had some memorable contests with Associate teams, most prominently against the Netherlands in the ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh, but Morgan insisted this game against Afghanistan was completely different. “Holland was a unique set of circumstances. We were already out of the tournament. We probably came into the game with a completely wrong mindset,” he said. “The disappointment of being knocked out of a World Cup is horrific really, so coming into this game, we’re really refreshed. Tomorrow’s going to be about focussing on what we do and adapting to the conditions that are in front of us. If we do that, hopefully we’ll perform well.”
Asghar Stanikzai, captain of the Afghanistan team, was perfectly relaxed, at least partly in the belief that all the pressure was on England. “Every team is coming to win. When we played against Oman and Hong Kong, they are a little bit lower than our team, but we were also under pressure whether they will beat us,” he explained. “Definitely, there will be big pressure on England. Specially looking towards the last two games. We are eager to win at least one match in the next two. And that's what is our main ambition. The guys are playing good cricket, and we are trying to win. Not only playing good cricket, we are eager and want to win at least one game in the tournament.”
In the recent past, Afghanistan has certainly done more than enough to make opposition teams sit up and notice. All that remains is for it to put together a 40-over sequence of its best cricket. England will be hoping that happens any day other than Wednesday.
England: Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (capt), Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (wk), Moeen Ali, Chris Jordan/Liam Dawson, David Willey, Adil Rashid.
Afghanistan: Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Noor Ali Zadran, Asghar Stanikzai (capt), Gulbadin Naib, Mohammad Nabi, Shamiullah Shenwari, Najibullah Zadran, Rashid Khan, Dawlat Zadran, Amir Hamza, Shapoor Zadran.
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