Afghanistan v Namibia
Sunday, 11:00 BST
Live on Sky Sports Cricket
Do not underestimate Afghanistan
A central theme of the latest episode of Cricket...Only Bettor concerned Afghanistan, and whether we should regard them as a second-grade cricketing nation, a 'minnow' so to speak. Or whether we should be taking them every bit as seriously as the established nations.
Tasneem-Summer Khan was crystal clear that we should be taking the latter stance, and I needed no convincing. Then they gave the best side in the competition a massive fright. If they can do that against Pakistan, they are a threat to all.
Spin threat can only increase
This line-up ticks all the right boxes for T20 cricket. Strong, aggressive batters, going very deep. Is there a better number nine than Rashid Khan? Plus critically, match-winners with the ball, who are very well suited to these Gulf conditions. As pitches get slower and lower, the threat from Rashid, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi can only increase.
For me, they are very much still in this tournament, and a genuine threat to India and New Zealand for the second qualifying spot from this group. It is very hard to see anything but an easy win against a genuine minnow.
Namibia outperforming expectations
No disrespect to Namibia intended. They have performed heroically and, on paper, are still alive in the tournament having beaten Scotland. They too have some good, aggressive batsmen. David Wiese belongs at this level. Ruben Trumpelmann was seriously impressive with the new ball against Scotland.
If Namibia have a chance, it lies in questionable Afghanistan tactics. An ultra-aggressive approach can always come unstuck with early wickets. The appropriate level of intent is an open question. In-running, I felt they were too gung-ho against Pakistan. Rather like the West Indies against England. However, look at the result. Others would argue that, if you bat that deep, why not?
More dubious was the decision to bat first against both Pakistan and Scotland, given the massive bias towards chasers in this tournament. One wonders whether they would have pulled off the upset if chasing. Pakistan's sole weakness so far has been timing the pace of scoring, with Asif Ali twice getting them out of jail with a late barrage of sixes. It made the world of difference knowing what was required.
Afghan spin to prove decisive
The Afghan logic is clearly that they have the bowlers to defend any total. Fair point. Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman are as good a pair of spinners as you'll see, ably backed up by Mohammad Nabi. Namibia really struggled against Sri Lankan spin, and this will be harder.
That spin trio's 12 overs will be extremely challenging. I reckon Namibia will struggle to average more than four per over off them, making even 120 or 130 a tough ask. If they bat first, I reckon the par 1st Innings Runs line will be around 120-125. If so, it is well worth taking the extreme unders from the 110 or more line downwards.
Back unders if Namibia bat first
Taking an educated guess about the odds, I'll look to lay 110 or more at 1.42/5 and 100 or more at 1.251/4. If not matched immediately, leave an order up to lay those lines in-running.
Another effect of the match proving to be one-sided could be a massive advantage to the Sri Lankan openers. If Namibia were indeed to bat first and be restricted to around 100, the current odds for openers Hazrutullah Zazai and Mohammad Shahzad would be huge. The former hit 44 off 30 against Scotland and is boosted to 10/3. We should assume he'll be forgiven a duck against Pakistan and take these enhanced odds.
We don't put up short odds-on chances on these pages but one bet that looks great for accas is Afghanistan to score most sixes and win the match at 1.51/2. The correlation between those two outcomes is strong in any case and the Afghans look particularly likely to hit maximums, registering 11 against Scotland and five against that elite Pakistan attack.
Finally, we discussed backing the spinners for Man of the Match during the podcast, before the odds were published. 5/1 for Rashid and 8/1 for Mujeeb is fair, given the likelihood of an Afghan winning the market and all the aforementioned dynamics. Plus, as Ed Hawkins explains in the show, there may be a slight bias towards bowlers in this market, for a change.
For more T20 World Cup tips listen to Cricket...Only Bettor
Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty