The wounds of Tuesday night would still be fresh for Afghanistan. They had Australia on the ropes at 91/7 and looked like scripting a historic win, but a certain Glenn Maxwell had other ideas. The 'Big Show' constructed arguably one of the best ODI innings ever to take the five-time champions over the line and into the semi-finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023. The Afghans need to forget the gutting loss, at least till they are alive in the tournament, and focus on their next game against South Africa in Ahmedabad on Friday, November 10. (Match Blog | Streaming | Scorecard | Preview)
The Proteas were flying high in the showpiece event with win after big win, before they came up against the Indian juggernaut and received a 243-run shellacking. Nevertheless, the Temba Bavuma-led side is assured a spot in the last-four stage and will take on Australia there in a repeat of the 2007 ODI World Cup semi-final.
South Africa will look to head into the knockout match against the Aussies on a high, and with a victory under their belt that will help regain the momentum lost with the demoralizing loss against Rohit Sharma's team. For Afghanistan, on the other hand, this is a do-or-die game and they need to not just win, but also win big to ensure their net run rate is high enough to overtake that of New Zealand and Pakistan, in case they win their respective last-league games. It will be a tough task for the Hashmatullah Shahidi-led side, but not one beyond them.
With that, here's a look at three key battles that could influence the outcome of the AFG vs RSA game at the Narendra Modi Stadium:
Ibrahim Zadran Vs Marco Jansen
Though his knock was overshadowed by Maxwell's double century later, opener Ibrahim Zadran shone bright against Australia, scoring an unbeaten 129 that made him Afghanistan's first centurion in the ODI World Cup. He has been giving his team good starts on a consistent basis and is their highest run-getter in the tournament thus far. But on Friday, he will have to contend with the tall, lanky Marco Jansen who had easily been the most consistent bowler at this edition of the World Cup before Indian batters thrashed him all over the park. The beating he took from the hosts would have fired up the 23-year-old left-arm seamer to bounce back with a vengeance.
Hashmatullah Shahidi Vs Keshav Maharaj
Afghanistan captain Hashmatullah Shahidi is putting up a consistent show in the tournament. He has scored 308 runs in eight games, the second-most for Afghanistan, which have played a crucial role in his team’s victories. He would look to step up and play a captain's innings once again, but it won't be easy against the wily left-arm spin of Keshav Maharaj. The 33-year-old Maharaj has looked in rhythm and has bagged 12 wickets in the 2023 ODI World Cup so far, including Shubman Gill's scalp off what many considered as the 'Ball Of The Tournament'.
Rashid Khan Vs Quinton de Kock
Everyone who follows cricket closely knows that Rashid Khan is the nucleus of the Afghan side. Be it with bat, ball or in the field as a senior pro, his contributions are pivotal to his team's progress. He has had a relatively quiet World Cup with the ball so far by his standards, with nine wickets. But since batters are aware of his threat and have looked to play him out, Rashid has a fantastic economy of 4.58 runs per over. But continuing that will be a big challenge against the rampaging Quinton de Kock, who has taken the tournament, his last in the 50-over format, by storm with an avalanche of runs. De Kock leads the batting charts currently with 550 runs, and will aim to add many more on Friday, including against the experienced Rashid.