Group stage done and dusted. Super 8, here we come!
India is all set to go up against Afghanistan in their Super 8 opener on 20th June at the Kensington Oval, Barbados, with both teams looking to extend their fine run of form leading up to the crucial stage of the competition.

Clubbed with Ireland, Pakistan, Canada and the hosts, USA, in Group A, Team India registered three wins out of the four matches to top the table with seven points. Their last match against Canada got called off due to rain, without a ball being bowled. 

India's pace battery headlined by Arshdeep Singh, Jasprit Bumrah and vice-captain Hardik Pandya has shouldered the responsibility in the bowling department so far. The three fast bowlers have a combined haul of 19 wickets at an economy of 5.25, not allowing the opposition batters to free their arms so far. 

Among batters, comeback man Rishabh Pant has been the leading run-getter for the Men in Blue, amassing 96 runs in three innings. Skipper Rohit Sharma and Suryakumar Yadav too, have recorded a half century each.

As far as Afghanistan is concerned, the Rashid Khan-led side has been in good form. Rahmanullah Gurbaz (167 runs) and Fazalhaq Farooqi (12 wickets) are the leading run-scorer and wicket-taker of the tournament, respectively.

Captain Rashid Khan’s best outing came against New Zealand where his 4/17 rattled the Kiwi batting line-up, resulting in a superb 84-run victory.

However, a 104-run loss against the West Indies in their last group match put a halt to Afghanistan’s winning run. Noor Ahmad was the pick among the Titans in that game, returning with 0/20 in his four-over spell.

Who’s hot and who’s not ahead of the Super 8?

While India have remained unbeaten in the T20 World Cup 2024 so far, Afghanistan were given a reality check against the West Indies in their last group stage match where they faced a heavy defeat. 

Nonetheless, some areas do need addressing for both teams as the competition intensifies.

India’s top-order batters were put to test on the drop-in pitches of the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium where they got dismissed by pacers on 13 out of 14 occasions. 

With the pitch at the Kensington Oval favouring pacers, India will need to be cautious of Afghanistan’s fast bowlers, who have bagged 57.14% of their team’s wickets as compared to 28.57% taken by spinners.

Talking about the Titans featuring for Afghanistan, captain Rashid Khan, Noor Ahmad and Azmatullah Omarzai will be taking centre stage. While Rashid and Noor have kept it tight so far with economy rates of 6.18 and 6.16 respectively, Azmatullah has been a bit expensive with an economy of 8.83.

Meanwhile, the Afghanistan middle order is yet to put its best foot forward. In the four group stage games, only Gulbadin Naib’s 49* off 36 balls against Papua New Guinea stood out among a string of mediocre performances.

Indian bowlers, being on top of their form, especially during the powerplay phase, may cause problems for the opposition, something that the Afghans will be vary of.

India vs Afghanistan: Head-to-head in T20Is

India and Afghanistan have squared off in eight T20Is so far, with the former coming out on top in seven instances. The fixture at the Asian Games 2023 concluded with no result.  

The first-ever match-up between India and Afghanistan took place in the T20 World Cup 2010 where India comfortably emerged victorious by seven wickets. Gujarat Titans’ head coach Ashish Nehra claimed the Player of the Match award, and returned with bowling figures of 3/19, including 14 dot balls. 

The Asia Cup 2022 clash saw Virat Kohli register his maiden T20I ton as he smashed an unbeaten 122 off just 61 balls, the then-highest individual T20I score by an Indian batter.

In the process, he set and bettered a plethora of records, including equalling Australian legend Ricky Ponting’s record of 71 international centuries.

When the two teams met last time, it produced one of the most thrilling T20Is of all time, with two super overs being bowled, and India emerged victorious in that nail biter.

With the previous head-to-head encounter setting the stage ablaze with double super overs, anticipation runs high for another thrilling duel. 

A change in playing conditions may warrant a different look to the lineup of both the sides. Will Team India cruise through or are you expecting it to be a cagey affair?