We’re nearing the business end of the Super 10 phase of this year’s World T20, and both groups are still wide open with the West Indies sitting atop Group 1 with two wins and New Zealand at the summit of Group 2 following their wins over India and Australia.
Wednesday will see both qualifiers in action against two of the pre-tournament favourites. First up, England will square off against a dangerous Afghanistan side before India head into a must-win clash with Bangladesh in Bangalore.
England 1/8 | Draw 35/1 | Afghanistan 11/2
It remains to be seen whether or not England’s batting will carry them through the tournament, because their bowling certainly won’t; at least not on the evidence we’ve seen thus far. Not even Adil Rashid – who came into this tournament as one to watch – has managed to really trouble opposition batsmen.
One thing that does need to be taken into account, however, is the fact that both of England’s games to date have been played at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. The ground has thus far been proven to be an absolute batman’s paradise. South Africa have scored 200+ in both of their games on the ground, the first of which saw England produce the second-highest T20 international run chase in history, when hunted down the Proteas’ 229 last Friday.
We’re likely to see a different sort of game pan out on Wednesday, however, as England and Afghanistan go head to head at the eye-catching Feroz Shah Kotla in New Delhi. We’ve yet to see how this wicket will play, but I can only imagine it will offer a bit more assistance to the spinners. In addition to this, the deck should be a lot slower and lower than that of Mumbai, two things the English will need to be weary of, especially considering the wealth of spin options the Afghans have at their disposal.
England’s two key men are likely to be Alex Hales and Jason Roy. The opening duo have been in fantastic form of late, and if they can settle early, they can and will take the game away from the Afghans in the blink of an eye. As much was evident in England’s game with South Africa where the two got England’s chase off the ideal start, plundering 44 runs from the first two overs.
For the Afghans, Mohammad Shahzad and the 17-year-old legspinner, Rashid Khan, are going to have to play massive roles if they are to spring the upset of the tournament thus far. Shahzad in particular will need to replicate his display against South Africa if the Asians are to stand any chance against Eoin Morgan and his charges. Khan didn’t have the greatest day out against the Proteas, however, he showed enough promise against the Sri Lankans for the English camp to take note. He is unerring in his line and length, showing excellent control for such a young legspinner.
Verdict: Asghar Stanikzai to top score for Afghanistan at 7/2
Asghar Stanikzai doesn’t look like an associate batsman. He played a masterful innings against Sri Lanka to give his side a fighting chance. He bats with control and poise, something missing from the game of Shahzad who may well struggle to impose himself in Delhi. Take Stanikzai to top score at generous odds of 7/2.
India 1/7 | Draw 35/1 | Bangladesh 5/1
The second match of the day will see an under-pressure Indian side go head to head with a Bangladeshi side who simply have to win this game if they are to stand any chance of qualifying for the semi-finals.
India’s biggest concern heading into this game is their wobbly opening duo of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan. The two were in magnificent touch heading into the tournament but have thus far failed to make any significant impact in the two matches against New Zealand and Pakistan. Suresh Raina is also back to his woeful worst with the bat, only managing two runs in India’s first two games. While there really aren’t any alternatives to the opening pair, I think Raina needs to drop to the bench for Ajinkya Rahane moving forward. Rahane is by far the better batsman and has the temperament to handle the pressure in a flagship event – something that Raina is sorely lacking.
Virat Kohli will again be the key for the Indians against Bangladesh. The Delhi native is by far the best T20 batsman in the world at the moment and should have very little trouble batting against what will be weakened Bangladeshi bowling attack following bans handed out to Arafat Sunny and Taskin Ahmed.
While India’s batsmen have faltered so far, their bowlers have been absolutely magnificent. I’ve been particularly impressed with Ashish Nehra. The 36-year-old has been at his economical best so far and has partnered Ravichandran Ashwin well, early on in the innings. Jasprit Bumrah has also impressed since his debut against Australia earlier on in the year.
Bangladesh have endured a bit of a nightmare in the Super 10 phase of the competition. They would have been brimming with confidence following their Asia Cup exploits and relatively straightforward qualifying phase. However, losing their opening games against Pakistan and Australia coupled with the bans copped by Arafat Sunny and Taskin Ahmed – arguably their two best bowlers - has hamstrung them somewhat. There was to be more bad news on the eve of their clash against Australia with Tamim Iqbal ruled out of the clash through injury.
Iqbal should be back for the match against India, while there hasn’t been any news on Sunny and Ahmed. Their continued absence probably puts Bangladesh out of contention against an immensely strong Indian top and middle order.
Verdict: India to claim the highest opening partnership at 6/10
There is no better time for Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan to find a bit of form than against a demoralised, weakened Bangladeshi bowling attack. While both are out of form at the moment, they never spend too much time on the ropes before bouncing back with frightening belligerence. Get on at 6/10.