Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Afghanistan eye Super Eight spot against nearly-men PNG

Fazalhaq Farooqi rattled New Zealand with his early blows ICC/Getty Images

Match details

Afghanistan vs Papua New Guinea
Tarouba, 8.30pm local

Big picture

Afghanistan have had a dream start to their T20 World Cup 2024 campaign. Having brushed past Uganda in the opening fixture, they dealt a killer blow to New Zealand and are comfortably placed to make the Super Eight.

In the previous edition in 2022, Afghanistan were part of Super 12 but couldn't register a single win, losing three games and the other two being washed out.

Much of their success so far this year has been down to their openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran. They added 154 against Uganda and 103 against New Zealand, with Gurbaz hitting fifties in both games. The flip side is that the middle order has not had enough time in the middle. It could hurt them as it almost did when they lost 6 for 55 after their opening stand against New Zealand.

It could well be their achilles heel against nearly-men PNG. They are yet to win a match but defending 136 in their opening game, they had West Indies in a spot of bother. In their next outing, they made Uganda work hard for a target of 78.

The sluggish conditions in Tarouba could level the playing field, even though Afghanistan have the skills suited for those. PNG's plethora of medium-pacers and spinners would want to leave a mark at the Brian Lara Stadium. And the team will have a whole bunch of New Zealand fans cheering for them, as their hopes of making the Super Eight hinge on, among other things, PNG beating Afghanistan.

Form guide

Afghanistan WWWWL (last five T20Is, most recent first)

In the spotlight

Over the last two years, Ibrahim Zadran's consistent performances saw him cement his place at the top of the batting order across formats. He has turned out to be the perfect foil for Gurbaz, improving his range of shots as well as his T20I strike rate (117.91 in 2024, up from 102.91 in 2023). That has meant the scoreboard did not come to a halt when Gurbaz wasn't on strike. He finished the Qosh Tepa National T20 Cup, Afghanistan's domestic competition, as the leading run-scorer, and has carried his form into the World Cup.

Seamer Norman Vanua is PNG's leading wicket-taker in T20Is. The team felt his absence in the opening game of the tournament. But he made a successful return against Uganda, his 2 for 19 keeping the side in the contest. With PNG harbouring hopes of their maiden win in the competition, all eyes will be yet again on Vanua.

Team news

Mujeeb Ur Rahman missed the last game with a hand injury. If fit, he could come in for Noor Ahmad, who bowled just the one over against New Zealand.

Afghanistan (probable XI): 1 Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), 2 Ibrahim Zadran, 3 Azmatullah Omarzai, 4 Gulbadin Naib, 5 Najibullah Zadran, 6 Mohammad Nabi, 7 Karim Janat, 8 Rashid Khan (capt), 9 Noor Ahmad/Mujeeb Ur Rahman, 10 Naveen-ul-Haq, 11 Fazalhaq Farooqi

Expect PNG to field an unchanged team.

PNG (probable XI): 1 Assad Vala (capt), 2 Tony Ura, 3 Sese Bau, 4 Lega Siaka, 5 Hiri Hiri, 6 Charles Amini, 7 Kiplin Doriga (wk), 8 Chad Soper, 9 Norman Vanua, 10 Alei Nao, 11 John Kariko

Stats and trivia

  • Sese Bau needs 54 runs to become the fourth from PNG to a 1000 mark in T20Is.

  • No opening pair has added more runs than Ibrahim Zadran and Rahmanullah Gurbaz in T20Is in 2024.

  • Among those who have bowled at least 50 overs in T20Is since January 2023, Rashid Khan and John Kariko are the second- and the fifth-most economical bowlers.

Pitch and conditions

The surface in Tarouba played true to its sluggish nature during the game between West Indies and New Zealand. Because of rain in the lead-up to the match, some deliveries from the good-length area outside off stump kept alarmingly low, and it was not easy to hit through the line. There isn't any rain on the forecast - though that might change - but captain winning the toss is likely to bowl first because of the dew around.

Afghanistan 2nd innings Partnerships

1st8Ibrahim ZadranRahmanullah Gurbaz
2nd14Gulbadin NaibRahmanullah Gurbaz
3rd33Gulbadin NaibAzmatullah Omarzai
4th46Mohammad NabiGulbadin Naib

ICC Men's T20 World Cup

Super Eights, Group 1
Super Eights, Group 2
Group A
Group B
Group C
Group D