Afghanistan have also made good progress in T20 cricket – they now have Fazalhaq Farooqi and Naveen-ul-Haq to back up their spin trio of Rashid, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi. All three spinners will dip into their Big Bash League (BBL) experiences, which captain Nabi alluded to during the pre-match press conference.
Afghanistan LLLLW (last five completed matches, most recent first)New Zealand WLWWW
Mujeeb Ur Rahman is four wickets away from 50 strikes in T20Is•Getty Images
In the spotlight
Afghanistan might consider replacing Fareed Ahmad with Naveen-ul-Haq.
Afghanistan (probable): 1 Hazratullah Zazai, 2 Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), 3 Ibrahim Zadran, 4 Usman Ghani, 5 Najibullah Zadran, 6 Mohammad Nabi (capt), 7 Rashid Khan, 8 Azmatullah Omarzai, 9 Mujeeb Ur Rahman, 10 Naveen-ul-Haq/Fareed Ahmad, 11 Fazalhaq Farooqi
On the eve of the game, Trent Boult said Mitchell had the “determination” and “hunger to want to be out there”. If Mitchell is fit, Mark Chapman might have to make way, while offspin-bowling allrounder Michael Bracewell might have to wait his turn a little longer.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Finn Allen, 2 Devon Conway (wk), 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Glenn Phillips, 5 James Neesham, 6 Daryl Mitchell/Mark Chapman, 7 Mitchell Santner, 8 Ish Sodhi, 9 Trent Boult, 10 Tim Southee/Adam Milne, 11 Lockie Ferguson
Pitch and conditions
Nabi, who has played for Melbourne Renegades in the BBL, said he has never seen an MCG pitch so green. “Yes, at that time in Big Bash, it was drier,” Nabi said on Tuesday. “The ball swings early on for one or two overs, but after that it will be a little bit slower, [some] help for spinners, and the ball won’t swing that much.
“But here the pitch is new and also a little bit green. as well, and also the weather is cold.” If the India-Pakistan game was anything to go by, there could be some early swing, which would pique the interest of Farooqi and Boult. Both Afghanistan and New Zealand will have the benefit of watching what unfolds in the game prior to theirs, with Ireland facing England first up in the afternoon.
There is an 80% chance of rain on Wednesday, according to the Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology.
Stats and trivia
Neesham has struck at 204.16 in T20Is this year at the death. Only Sri Lanka’s Dasun Shanaka (210.61) has a better strike rate than Neesham among batters who have faced at least 90 balls at the death (overs 17-20). Hardik Pandya, Rovman Powell and Dinesh Karthik round out the top five in this list.
Gurbaz has struggled against left-arm fingerspin in T20Is, managing just 77 runs off 91 balls at a strike rate of just under 85 while being dismissed five times. Expect New Zealand match Santner up with Gurbaz in the powerplay.
Mujeeb is four wickets away from 50 strikes in T20Is. He will become the third Afghanistan bowler to the landmark after Rashid and Nabi.
“Yeah, Southee and Boult, they are both good bowlers and also bowling-wise they use the conditions very well. They bowl swing and also they can bowl slow ones at the same time. Yeah, we all see the videos and everything, and also we discuss all these things.”Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi is wary of New Zealand’s strike bowlers
“I’ve only played a handful of games really at the ‘G, but yeah, an amazing stadium. Obviously to get out there and be on the World Cup stage is going to be pretty special as well.Trent Boult is looking forward to playing at what will be his home ground in the BBL
Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo