Cricket World Cup 2019: Pakistan bank on Babar Azam's sensational form in tricky clash against Afghanistan

Waseem Ahmed 28/06/2019
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Babar Azam.

Pakistan seemed down and out after the heavy defeat to India in the 2019 World Cup. The knives were out after the defeat to India with many experts questioning the team combination, Sarfraz Ahmed’s captaincy and the entire cricketing structure in the country.

But once an opening was provided by Sri Lanka’s shock win over favourites England, Pakistan were a different team. The indifferent Proteas were swatted away by 49 runs before before the men in green came up with their performance of the tournament to register a six-wicket win over against the most consistent side of of the World Cup – alongside India – in New Zealand.

The Kiwis were tied down on a raging turner in Birmingham and thus, Pakistan’s incredible turnaround – exactly like their 1992 World Cup winning campaign – continued. Next up for them is Afghanistan in Leeds on Saturday.

BABAR AND SOHAIL FACTOR

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JUNE 26: Haris Sohail of Pakistan plays a shot during the Group Stage match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 between New Zealand and Pakistan at Edgbaston on June 26, 2019 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

Haris Sohail.

The two names common in Pakistan’s wins over the Proteas and Kiwis are Babar Azam and Haris Sohail.

Sohail’s late selection in place of the out of form Shoaib Malik was a belated but sensible move. The left-handed batsman has provided 360 degree batting ability and a calm head chiseled over a decade in domestic cricket.

Two fifties from Sohail formed the backbone of Pakistan’s imposing batting effort, especially against the Kiwis where left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner was turning the ball square from the rough.

Babar, on the other hand, has been in imperious form. With two fifties and an unbeaten ton against the Kiwis, the young middle order batsman has established himself as the best young batsman in the game.

Babar has become the second fastest to 3000 ODI runs and the rate at which he is going, the 24-year-old looks set to break many more.

AFGHAN CHALLENGE

The Afghanistan match is a potential banana peel for Pakistan. Captain Gulbadin Naib has already expressed his desire to at least ruin the campaigns of other teams now that they are out of the tournament. And Pakistan should be wary.

Afghanistan won the warm-up clash between the two teams at the start of the tournament and even in the Asia Cup in the UAE last year, Pakistan had to  fight tooth and nail to defeat Afghanistan.

The pitch at Leeds offered enough encouragement to spinners in a low-scoring match between Sri Lanka and England, which means the likes of Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb Ur Rahman will be a serious threat, as they were on a slow pitch against India in Southampton.

LIKELY XIs

Pakistan: Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Haris Sohail, Sarfaraz Ahmed (c and wk), Imad Wasim, Wahab Riaz, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Shaheen Afridi

Afghanistan: Gulbadin Naib (c), Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Asghar Afghan, Mohammad Nabi, Samiullah Shinwari, Ikram Alikhil (wk), Najibullah Zadran, Rashid Khan, Dawlat Zadran, Mujeeb Ur Rahman

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Cricket World Cup 2019: India's orange away kit for England clash revealed

Sudhir Gupta 28/06/2019
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India's latest orange kit. Image credit - Nike.

India’s changed kit for the upcoming 2019 ICC World Cup clash against England has been revealed with the Men in Blue set to don an orange and navy-blue jersey.

The concept of alternate kits had not really existed in cricket previously but the ICC had introduced a new rule before the start of the World Cup, asking teams to sport home and away jerseys in the tournament.

“For televised ICC events all participating teams will be required to provide for two different coloured kits, except for the host country who has preference in the choice of colour and may, if it chooses to do so, provide only one coloured kit to be worn in all matches throughout the event,” the ICC rule stated.

“In advance of the event, the teams will be notified which coloured kit will be worn in each match.”

With both England and India usually donning a blue jersey, the latter will turn out in their latest orange kit in the clash between the two sides which takes place at Edgbaston on Sunday.

South Africa are one of the sides who have already turned out in their away kit in the ongoing World Cup. Both South Africa and Bangladesh have green traditional jerseys and the Proteas donned a yellow jersey in the clash between the two sides in the early stages of the tournament.

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Cricket World Cup 2019: Kuldeep Yadav buoyed by India's bowling prowess

Sport360 staff 28/06/2019
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India wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav.

In Jasprit Bumrah, India have the world’s number one ranked bowler, but this ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup has shown their attack is about more than one man.

Bumrah was brilliant once again in the 125-run victory over the West Indies at Old Trafford, taking 2/9 from his six overs.

However, it is the rest of the attack, from Mohammed Shami, who took four wickets for the second straight game, to Hardik Pandya, emerging as viable fifth option, as well as spin pair Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, that has made India such a formidable proposition.

For the second successive game, they were forced to defend a relatively small total, 268 on this occasion, and they did so convincingly.

And for wrist-spinner Kuldeep, the way the attack is coming together as a team can only bode well for the remainder of the competition.

“Jasprit has been bowling really well and has been for a couple of years since his international debut,” said Kuldeep, who took 1/35 including the crucial wicket of Nicholas Pooran for 28.

“Then you have Shami, who was only playing his second game and bowled really well. We’ve got a good fast bowling attack, as well as spinners.

“We’re just looking for the team combination. We’re doing really well as a bowling attack and that is important. In the last game (against Afghanistan) we defended 225 and showed we can defend a total like this.”

Although the final result was one-sided, the West Indies seemed very much in the hunt at the halfway stage.

Kemar Roach’s three wickets had helped them put India into a pressure situation, but MS Dhoni (56 not out) and Pandya (46) made telling contributions, with Kuldeep thrilled at the way the team came through a tricky situation.

And it’s another huge confidence boost ahead of a showdown with England at Edgbaston on Sunday

He added: “We played really well. At one moment we were looking at 250 and then Mahendra and Hardik gave us a good total.

“270 was really good on this track. Later the ball was spinning a bit and that gave us momentum. Shami picking up two early wickets was huge for us, then Hardik got one and I got one so it was a really satisfying performance.”

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