International Cricket

Match Preview – AFG vs UGA 5th Match, Group C, T20 World Cup

Match details

Afghanistan vs Uganda
Providence, 7.30pm local

Big picture – Can Uganda make it a debut to remember?

It has been a long road for Uganda to the T20 World Cup 2024 but they are here by right, and now have a chance to make a big mark.

Their first opponents, however, are not the sort you want to face when trying to ease into the top flight. Afghanistan are a team bristling with talent and ambition after finishing sixth in the 2023 ODI World Cup. They beat England, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Netherlands in an impressive run, and might just have finished stronger had it not been for a once-in-a-lifetime innings from Glenn Maxwell.

At this World Cup, Afghanistan would want to finish things off quickly against Uganda in the first game and later Papua New Guinea, the Associates in their group, because co-hosts West Indies and New Zealand are also in the same group, so Super Eight qualification could get tricky. And that’s not counting for upsets, as PNG threatened to pull off against West Indies.

Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran will be expected to give them a quick start. Their spin trio of captain Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb Ur Rahman make up one of the most formidable T20I spin attack. Fazalhaq Farooqi and Naveen-ul-Haq are reputed T20 quicks, while allrounder Azmatullah Omarzai is a rising star. It’s a team with a lot of T20 class.

But Afghanistan’s batters will have to be watchful against Uganda, who have as many as three left-arm fingerspinners in their ranks. Apart from Najibullah Zadran, none of the likely starters among the batters are left-hand batters. Uganda, on the other hand, have some variety in their bowling, which opponents have to watch out for.

They got to the World Cup through the Africa qualifiers, where they beat Zimbabwe by five wickets. It was their first win against a Full Member side, and one that has raised their hopes. They will bank on batter Roger Mukasa, allrounders Riazat Ali Shah and Alpesh Ramjani, and left-arm spinner Henry Ssenyondo, all regular performers.

It could become an interesting battle, despite the gulf between the two sides. And if Uganda want some inspiration from history, they could look back at this game from 2009.

Form guide

Afghanistan WWLWL (last five completed T20Is, most recent first)
Uganda WLWWW

In the spotlight – Azmatullah Omarzai and Alpesh Ramjani

Azmatullah Omarzai was among the top-performing allrounders at the ODI World Cup last year. His 353 runs and seven wickets were comparable to the numbers of Rachin Ravindra and Maxwell among those who scored at least 300 runs and took five wickets. Omarzai doesn’t have great numbers in T20s yet, but Afghanistan see the 24-year-old as one for the future, as did Gujarat Titans in IPL 2024. He will bat in the middle order, and his swing bowling might come in handy in the powerplay too.

Allrounders are Uganda’s strength, and Alpesh Ramjani is the leader of that pack with his 469 runs and 65 wickets since 2023. Ramjani bats in the middle order and bowls left-arm spin. A product of Mumbai’s famed cricket structure, he played with the likes of Shivam Dube, and considers Suryakumar Yadav as a mentor. Ramjani moved to Uganda in 2021 at the advice of current team-mate Dinesh Nakrani, and made his international debut in 2022.

Team news

Afghanistan are likely to play Omarzai, Gulbadin Naib and Karim Janat, all seam-bowling allrounders, alongside Naveen and Farooqi. It will give them batting cushion down to No. 8.

Afghanistan (probable): 1 Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), 2 Ibrahim Zadran, 3 Gulbadin Naib, 4 Azmatullah Omarzai, 5 Mohammad Nabi, 6 Najibullah Zadran, 7 Rashid Khan (capt), 8 Karim Janat, 9 Mujeeb Ur Rahman, 10 Naveen-ul-Haq, 11 Fazalhaq Farooqi

Mukasa and Simon Ssesazi are a solid opening pair for Uganda, while Riazat, Nakrani and Ramjani form the all-round core of the side. They can field three left-arm spinners, including captain Brian Masaba, depending on the conditions.

Uganda (probable): 1 Roger Mukasa, 2 Simon Ssesazi, 3 Robinson Obuya, 4 Riazat Ali Shah, 5 Dinesh Nakrani, 6 Alpesh Ramjani, 7 Kenneth Waiswa, 8 Fred Achelam (wk), 9 Bilal Hassun, 10 Brian Masaba (capt), 11 Henry Ssenyondo

Pitch and conditions

In the last 12 months, teams have had to score 190-plus on average to win games at the Guyana National Stadium. The surface is slow traditionally. There’s a bit of rain forecast for the evening.

Stats that matter

  • Among Full Members, Ibrahim and Gurbaz are T20Is’ second-most prolific pair since the end of the 2022 T20 World Cup for any pair to have batted at least ten times. They have scored 503 runs at an average of 41.91 in this period, with a hundred and three fifty stands.

  • Nabi is Afghanistan’s only surviving member from the 2010 edition of the T20 World Cup.
  • Quotes

    “I think it’s a good sign for us as a team. We have those players who played recently here in the CPL, and they got that experience. And we share that experience with the boys. But I think in ICC [events], you always expect something different.”
    Rashid Khan on Afghanistan’s CPL connection

    “Yeah, there’s obviously a lot of excitement back home. It’s not just a first for us in cricket, but I believe we are the third team in any sporting discipline in the country to qualify for a World Cup. So, it’s not a small feat. It’s not just the cricket community that is supporting us. There’s a lot of the other guys in all the other sports as well as the government back home.”
    Uganda captain Brian Masaba on the scale of his team’s achievement by qualifying for the T20 World Cup

    Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84

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