How Afghanistan Obliterated Scotland: 3 Talking Points from 60 All Out
Scotland's woes against spin, their muddled bowling plans, and how Afghanistan's top four were too good on the night
60 all out: It’s quite the reversal from beating Bangladesh just a week ago. Predictably, Scotland's 130-run mauling at the hands of Afghanistan gave the lowest common denominator of Twitter trolls the ammunition they wanted to push for a less global and inclusive sport.
However, Scotland can play better than they did on Monday. They’ve shown this on multiple occasions against Full Members. For now, here are three takeaways from last night’s fixture between Scotland and Afghanistan.
Muddled thinking with the ball, Afghan batters too good
Before the game against Afghanistan, Scotland’s bowlers had only conceded 5.4 runs per over in the Powerplay in their first three games of the World Cup. They started well too, with Brad Wheal executing his game plans to perfection in the first over of the innings. He bowled short and into Hazratullah Zazai’s body with the protection of the longer leg-side boundary, conceding just two runs. The third over of the innings saw Safyaan Sharif deliver a near carbon copy, which also went for a mere two runs.
In between those two overs, however, Michael Leask haemorrhaged 18 runs in spite of bowling four balls to Zazai who only strikes at 112 against off spin compared to 152 against right-arm pace, 163 against left-arm pace, and 164 against leg spin.
The matchup made sense, but Leask’s decision to bowl full instead of utilizing the pitch did not. At least on a few occasions, he looked as if he was trying to fire the ball in, which would negate the Zazai versus off spin matchup. In any case, the three boundaries he leaked were off half volleys. If he was aiming for Mark Watt-esque yorkers, he missed. If he was aiming to draw Zazai’s edge by bowling an in-between length, he missed and there was no fielder positioned in the slip cordon to back this up anyway.
Yet, the score after four overs was a manageable 30/0. Brad Wheal was brought in to bowl the fifth from the same end that he had initially troubled Zazai from.
But this time, the story was very different.
Wheal was too full with his first delivery back, allowing Zazai to slog him over the cow corner fence. He got his length right off the next delivery, but for the first time in the game, he gave Zazai just a hint of room and was punched through the off side for four. Wheal hadn’t bowled terribly up to that point, but Zazai was simply too good.
The jaded seamer never recovered from an over that went for 16. He’d go on to travel the distance in his two remaining overs, where he regularly missed his lengths. Afghanistan, with the luxury of 8 wickets in hand, muscled 108 runs in the final half of the innings to finish on 190 — a score which only gave Scotland a 7% chance of victory according to WinViz.
Afghanistan top four’s intent
Afghanistan are the kings of Sharjah, scoring the three highest Men’s T20I totals on that venue, with yesterday’s performance against Scotland second on the list.
What makes their top four so dangerous is their intent to go at opposition bowlers and get ahead of the game. When it comes off, as it did last night, it gives their spin trio of Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, and Mohammad Nabi a strong cushion of runs to defend.
Three of their top four have hit almost as many sixes as they have fours during the last three years, something only the West Indies are better at. Hazratullah Zazai has 37 fours and 30 sixes, Rahmanullah Gurbaz 37 fours and 31 sixes and Najibullah Zadran has 27 fours and 21 sixes. The only batter with a considerably less amount is Mohammad Shahzad, although in domestic cricket in the last three years he has a strike rate of 154.8 and an intimidating boundary percentage of 26.95.
It wasn’t just yesterday where they produced this type of display with the bat. The Afghans posted 189 for 5 against West Indies in their warm-up match, with the top four blasting their way to get ahead of the game, and the spinners then restricting their opponents to 133 on that occasion.
They essentially out-West-Indied the West Indies! No anchors needed in this line-up…
Scotland versus spin
Coming into the tournament, Scotland had a reputation for playing spin well. We’ve seen glimpses of it with George Munsey and Chris Greaves’ reverse sweeps. Moreover, we all know what Calum Macleod is capable of against Spin after his 157* against Afghanistan in the 2019 Men’s ODI World Cup Qualifier. Even Matthew Cross averages 45.5 against left-arm spin.
Last night, however, they were undone by the single best T20 spinner on the planet and Mujeeb, who has taken more Powerplay wickets in T20 cricket (70) than anyone else since January 2018. The pair combined to take nine scalps, conceding a mere 29 runs. Scotland also struggled against spin in their historic triumph over Bangladesh as Shakib al Hasan and Mahedi Hasan combined to grab 36 for 5 from their eight overs.
Throughout the tournament, Scotland have only lost two more wickets against spin than they have against seam. However, they’ve scored at 7.74 against seam, averaging 20.8 compared to 5.81 and 12.5 against spin. In comparison to the other teams who made it through to the Super 12s, Sri Lanka’s numbers against spin are 9.68 and 30.7, Bangladesh’s are 7.61 and 25, and Namibia’s are 7.32 and 19.9.
A four-match sample size isn’t the best assessment of how a team handles spin, but it does tell you where they need to improve going forward to get their campaign back on track.
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