England eye Afghan scalp.

Upbeat Morgan's men not taking minnows lightly

England eye Afghan scalp.

England have a point to prove. The memory of their unceremonious exit in 2014 at the hands of minnows, the Netherlands, still lingers in their camp. 

At present, the Englishmen face a welcome possibility of a World Cup T20 semifinal entry following their exhilarating chase against South Africa. But for that to happen, they first need to tame a free-spirited fireball in Afghanistan at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium on Wednesday.

England also have Sri Lanka to play on Saturday and these back-to-back matches here will decide their fate in the tournament. However, the run glut which they faced in Mumbai will not be found here.

The slow and spin-friendly track here would bring a different set of challenge for Eoin Morgan-led side which would be sprucing up its spin stock for their upcoming matches.

They have quality in off-spinner Moeen Ali and leg-spinner Adil Rashid and it is very likely that left-arm spinner Liam Dawson will get a look.

Moeen and Adil would be eager to roll their arms at a venue which would give them a good opportunity to ply their wares, unlike the flat Mumbai track where they played their first two matches. England bou­nced back from their opening match defeat to West Indies by compiling a record-breaking chase of 230-run target against South Africa, fashioned by Joe Root with his match winning 83 off 44.

It was against South Africa at the same venue, Afghanistan gave yet another peek into their talent. Their back-to-back losses have nearly dampened their hopes of further progress but there is no denying that they have allured one and all with their exciting play. They had given South Africa a fright before going down by 37 runs on Sunday. They have been sensational to say the least, and vocal in their sentiments.

The conditions will be to the liking of Afghanistan as well who are richly endowed in the spin department. They have an experienced off-spinner in Mohammad Nabi, who has taken care of those dreaded overs in the powerplay and even towards the end. They have a promising leg-spinner in 17-year-old Rashid Khan, even though he was hammered for 29 runs in an over by AB de Villiers. Apart from that they have a decent left-armer in Amir Hanza and makeshift spinner in Sami Shenwari.

In batting the side, led by Asghar Stanikzai, they have supremely talented Mohammad Shahzad. The portly batsman has become the story of this World Cup with his thrilling batsmanship and has always found a reliable support in the wily Nabi.

More so, for Afghanistan it will be akin to playing at home. They had shifted base in December from Sharjah to Noida, which is at the outskirts of the capital, and would be enjoying plenty of support from the expatriates here.

So while England would be looking to put behind the past and defy predications, Afgha­nistan would be all too eager to rake it.
 

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