5.44am EDT 05:44 4th over: Afghanistan 17-0 (Rahmat 12, Gulbadin 5) Rahmat joins the fun, driving Amir to the long extra cover boundary for four and then pulling a short one high over midwicket for four more. Just as impressive thus far is Rahmat’s defensive play against the better balls. This is shaping up to
4th over: Afghanistan 17-0 (Rahmat 12, Gulbadin 5) Rahmat joins the fun, driving Amir to the long extra cover boundary for four and then pulling a short one high over midwicket for four more. Just as impressive thus far is Rahmat’s defensive play against the better balls. This is shaping up to be a fine little contest.
3rd over: Afghanistan 9-0 (Rahmat 4, Gulbadin 5) Gulbadin threads a gorgeous cover drive through the gaps to score the first boundary of the day in an otherwise tight over from Imad. Five dots and a four.
2nd over: Afghanistan 5-0 (Rahmat 4, Gulbadin 1) Amir opens from the Kirkstall Lane End, accompanied by an expectant roar – they know and we know just what a key man he’s been this summer – and he induces a play-and-miss from Rahmat with one that slants across him and just ducks back a fraction. Rahmat has to be watchful, with Amir offering him nothing. A maiden.
Another brief bit of England chat from Neil Waterfield: “Unfortunately Bairstow has got previous form for this sort of thing. When Foakes retained his place (at the expense of Bairstow) in Sri Lanka over the winter, YJB had a rant about ‘people who have never played the game’ ie journalists. He needs to grow either up, a thicker skin, or a pair!” Players want their Nasser in 2002 vindication moment I guess.
1st over: Afghanistan 5-0 (Rahmat 4, Gulbadin 1) Pakistan do an Afghanistan and open up with spin, with Imad Wasim tossed the new ball to get us underway from the rugby stand end. Rahmat gets off the mark with an assured clip to mid-on and Gulbadin likewise with a flick through midwicket. Two more follow when Rahmat plays the same clip on the onside. Good start for Afghanistan, and some confident strike rotation.
Anthem time – Afghanistan’s a jaunty, up-tempo number, Pakistan’s rather more regimented but still decently upbeat.
There’s already a cacophonous atmosphere inside Headingley, with Pakistan fans in the majority, and this should be an agreeably noisy one. Whatever other gripes one may have, the atmosphere inside the grounds has been generally excellent during this tournament, way more vibrant than for your bog-standard ODI.
“We need to talk about it,” says OB Jato, wagging a finger, turning the telly off and instructing us to sit down and jolly well listen. “Bairstow’s comments about the media wishing for his team’s failure: yay or nay?” Call it industry bias if you will, but I’d say nay – cricket writers are desperate for our sport’s profile to be pepped up by a successful England team, but the prickliness betrayed by Bairstow’s comments is a bit concerning. But let’s put it down to passions running high and move on eh.
Emails: Abhijato gets in first, as per with some verse
“A familiar rhyme can be made out of the World Cup so far:
“TEN of the world’s best came to England, expecting their batters to peacefully wine and dine
But Afghanistan exemplified how tough it was to get going, and then there were nine
NINE of the world’s best stepped down to the spinners, taking the baitSouth Africa got stumped time and again on their way through the exit gate, and then there were eight
EIGHT teams faced off in weather straight out of cricketing heaven
The Proteas took down Sri Lanka along with them, and then there were seven…..”
The next could well be as follows: “…..SEVEN teams remained when England were in a fix
Pakistan were on their roll, while India were clinical enough to ensure then there were six…..”
Will the rhyme continue as expected?
And they line up thusly:
Afghanistan: Gulbadin Naib (c), Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Asghar Afghan, Samiullah Shinwari, Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Ikram Alikhil (wk), Rashid Khan, Hamid Hassan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman
Pakistan: Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Haris Sohail, Sarfaraz Ahmed (c, wk), Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Shaheen Afridi
It’s a scorcher in Leeds, around 29 degrees, and is set to stay hot. Afghanistan haven’t batted first much in this tournament but, conditions-wise, this is as good a chance as any for them to rack up a decent score. They’ve never beaten Pakistan in ODIs though, losing all of their three previous meetings.
Afghanistan win the toss and bat
Gulbadin calls correctly and, citing an agreeable-looking sun-kissed pitch, opts to bat first. Hamid Hassan is back for Afghanistan, while Pakistan are unchanged, Wahab Riaz having overcome a spot of finger-niggle.
Some pre-match reading on some other game this weekend. Ali Martin on England:
Anjali Doshi on India:
And Barney Ronay on the overall state of England:
Morning/afternoon everyone, and welcome to World Cup derby day. We’ve got an Antipodean set-to at Lord’s coming up later but we start with an all-Asian match-up that nine days ago didn’t look as if it would have much riding on it, and I suspected I’d be sat here trying to talk up nothingness to a listless audience of dozens. But then Pakistan cornered-tigered their way to steely wins over South Africa and New Zealand, England started imploding and now all eyes are on the new-look Headingley.
Pakistan can smell a semi-final place, as a campaign that has veered as only a Pakistan campaign can between inept capitulation and ebullient dominance hots up. Most, though not all, of their batsmen have played their way into form, with Babar Azam in particular playing with exquisite technical excellence, while among the bowlers suddenly it’s a case of if Mohammad Amir doesn’t get you, Shaheen Afridi, Wahab Riaz or Shadab Khan probably will. They will leap with joyous abandon above England and into the top four with victory today.
Alternatively, Pakistan could fall apart again, though they’d have to do so spectacularly against an Afghanistan side who are still winless and have not had the kind of breakthrough campaign they might have wished for. Sure, they’ve been natural underdogs and this drawn-out format has done them few favours, but off-field rancour, some poor batting and unreceptive pitches have made this all a bit of an ordeal. That said, they ran India closer than anyone else has – by some distance – and those spinners can be a handful for anyone. They have plenty to play for here.
So, it might be scorching outside, but you wouldn’t want to stray too far from the cricket today. And nor would I. It all starts at 10.30am BST.