Big picture: Semi-finals and Champions Trophy to play for
England – check, Pakistan – check, Sri Lanka – check, Netherlands – next?
Coming into this tournament, Afghanistan had just one win – in 2015 – to show for their previous two World Cup campaigns. Now, they have beaten three previous World Cup winners in this edition alone, and are gunning for two crucial points against the Netherlands to turn up the heat in the race for the semi-finals.
Lucknow was Afghanistan’s adopted home turf back in 2019, when they faced West Indies in one Test, three T20Is and three ODIs. While they did not have much success in the ODIs back then, the familiarity with the venue could give them an edge in this contest.
Afghanistan have solved some serious problems during their campaign. They were overly reliant on their top order for runs but the middle order has come to life with Hashmatullah Shahidi and Azmatullah Omarzai finding form. Fast bowler Fazalhaq Farooqi is coming off a four-wicket haul against Sri Lanka, having shown there’s more to Afghanistan’s attack than just spin.
And they have been clinical – not mercurial – in their victories. After dismantling England comfortably during their defense in Delhi, they chased down targets against Pakistan and Sri Lanka with a calmness that showed they belonged at the World Cup. Another victory will take Afghanistan to eight points, level with Australia and New Zealand who are in third and fourth place.
Afghanistan, however, are up against a team that also has a lot to play for. The Netherlands are still in the running for the semi-finals, although their chances are slim, but they have a real shot at qualifying for the 2025 Champions Trophy. To do that, they need to finish in the top eight at this World Cup, and taking two points off Afghanistan will open a four-point lead over the two teams currently below them (Bangladesh and England).
Having taken down South Africa earlier in the tournament, the Netherlands come into Friday’s fixture fresh off a win against Bangladesh. Their bowling – apart from the thumping against Australia – has been consistent but their batting has lacked firepower. The Netherlands have scored 250-plus just once in this high-scoring tournament and have needed their middle and lower order to come to their rescue several times.
At a venue where run-scoring hasn’t been as easy, the Netherlands will need to find a way to succeed against an Afghanistan attack that is much more than the exceptional Rashid Khan.
Afghanistan: LWLWW (last five ODIs, most recent first)
In the spotlight: Azmatullah Omarzai and Aryan Dutt
Offspinner Aryan Dutt has bowled the first over for the Netherlands in every game so far this tournament and has been economical in the powerplay. He has sent down 23 overs in the powerplay, taking three wickets and conceding just 4.56 per over. No other bowler has bowled more maidens than Dutt’s seven and he will be coming into the game high on confidence after taking 1 for 26 in ten overs against Bangladesh.
Ikram Alikhil hurt his finger against Sri Lanka but Afghanistan coach Jonathan Trott confirmed the wicketkeeper-batter was available for selection. If Lucknow is likely to aid spin, Afghanistan could look to bring in Noor Ahmad for Naveen-ul-Haq. They played four spinners against Pakistan in Chennai and Noor took 3 for 49 in that match.
Afghanistan (possible): 1 Rahmanullah Gurbaz, 2 Ibrahim Zadran, 3 Rahmat Shah, 4 Hashmatullah Shahidi (capt), 5 Azmatullah Omarzai, 6 Ikram Alikhil (wk)/Najibullah Zadran, 7 Mohammad Nabi, 8 Rashid Khan, 9 Mujeeb Ur Rahman, 10 Naveen- ul-Haq/Noor Ahmad, 11 Fazalhaq Farooqi
Netherlands are unlikely to make changes to the XI that beat Bangladesh.
Netherlands (possible): 1 Max O’Dowd, 2 Vikramjit Singh, 3 Wesley Barresi, 4 Colin Ackermann, 5 Scott Edwards (capt & wk), 6 Bas de Leede, 7 Sybrand Engelbrecht, 8 Logan van Beek, 9 Shariz Ahmad, 10 Aryan Dutt, 11 Paul van Meekeren
Pitch and conditions: Another slow burner?
The pitch for the game is a mixture of black and red soil and could help the spinners. Before the square was re-laid earlier this year, the Ekana Stadium wasn’t known for high scores. Only once in 16 ODI innings has a team scored 300-plus here – by South Africa earlier in the competition.
Stats and trivia: Mujeeb on the cusp of a hundred
“We are here at a World Cup, we’re not playing the Champions Trophy. The focus is the semi-final for us. We’re not interested in what’s happening in two years’ time. We’ve got a game to win tomorrow.”
Colin Ackermann says Netherlands have unfinished business in India
“We’re not going to make the semis by just talking about it. We have to play good cricket. How well we start tomorrow is going to be crucial and how well we finish.”
Jonathan Trott wants a clinical show from Afghanistan