For pre-tournament favourites India, nothing has gone to plan so far in the T20 World Cup. They lost two tosses, their batting failed twice, their bowlers have taken only two wickets so far, and they find themselves second-last on the Group 2 table with no points from two games.
They can mathematically still finish in the top two of the group and make it to the semi-final. But the first step of that involves winning well against Afghanistan.
The Afghans aren’t going to make things easy, of course. They are an in-form team, with an excellent net run rate after big wins against Scotland and Namibia, and gave Pakistan some nervous moments as well. Their spin attack is world class, and will be the main threat to an Indian batting line-up that has struggled to get going against spinners.
Afghanistan have been able to so far go against one of the trends in the World Cup: whereas most teams winning the toss have chosen to chase, and most teams chasing have won, Afghanistan have chosen to bat, and backed their bowlers to defend the totals. Happily for them, their pacers have supported the spin trio well.
They have also adopted an aggressive batting strategy – in contrast to India’s more conservative approach – and it has worked well for them so far. With the pressure on India, they may take the chance to play with further freedom.
Stars on both the Indian and Afghan sides will be wary of how dangerous the other players can be. While the teams have played T20Is only twice so far, the last of which was back in 2012, they have been familiar friends and foes at the IPL.
Possible XI: Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant, Ishan Kishan, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Mohammad Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Varun Chakravarthy
Afghanistan will be forced to make a change with their former captain Asghar Afghan choosing to retire after their last match. They will be hoping that Mujeeb Ur Rahman, who missed the last match, is fit again. Hashmatullah Shahidi could come in as a batting option.
Possible XI: Hazratullah Zazai, Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi (capt), Karim Janat, Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan, Naveen-ul-Haq, Hamid Hassan. Mujeeb Ur Rahman