Pakistan look to extend dominance as Afghanistan seek redemption in second ODI

LAHORE  - Pakistan and Afghanistan gear up for the second ODI at Hambantota following the Men in Green’s convincing 142-run victory in the series opener. The stakes are high for both teams as Pakistan aim to maintain their winning momentum, while Afghanistan seek redemption and aim to level the three-match ODI series. 

After a spectacular performance in the initial ODI, where Pakistan’s Ha­ris Rauf showcased his bowling prow­ess with a stunning five-wicket haul, the Team Green is likely to stick to the same winning combination. The first match witnessed Afghanistan’s batting struggles, as they were bowled out for a mere 59 runs while chasing a 202- run target. This dismal performance has put them under pressure to bounce back and stay alive in the series. 

Pakistan might have been disap­pointed with their batsmen’s showing in the opening game, with only five players reaching double figures, and captain Babar Azam dismissed for a three-ball duck. However, opener Imam ul-Haq continued to underscore his ODI caliber with a crucial 61, contrib­uting significantly to Pakistan’s defend­able total. Thereafter, the bowlers took charge, dismissing Afghanistan with their unyielding pace, seam, and swing, resulting in three of Afghanistan’s top four batsmen falling for a duck. 

Afghanistan would have been con­tent at the halfway point of the first ODI after restricting Pakistan to 201 runs, although having reduced them to 62/4, they might have hoped for a bet­ter outcome. However, their fortunes changed dramatically as Afghanistan’s batsmen struggled against Pakistan’s world-class fast bowling attack. Ul­timately, they were bowled out for a mere 59, with opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz top-scoring at just 18. This led to Afghanistan suffering a resounding defeat by 142 runs. 

The pitch at the Hambantota Cricket Stadium has showcased a dynamic mix of challenges for both batting first and chasing. While the venue historically fa­vored spinners as matches progressed, the recent encounter between Pakistan and Afghanistan highlighted the poten­tial for seam and pace movement. With fast bowlers gaining prominence, both teams will rely on their speedsters to make a significant impact. Weather conditions could play a pivotal role in the match, as AccuWeather predicts in­tervals of clouds and sun with passing showers throughout the day. The pros­pect of rain-related interruptions looms, with potential shower windows fore­casted at 7 AM, 9 AM, 2 PM, and 6 PM. 

In terms of historical records, the Hambantota Cricket Stadium has wit­nessed Sri Lanka’s highest team total of 368/4 against Pakistan in 2015, while Afghanistan’s dismal 59 all-out remains the lowest team total, recorded against Pakistan in the ongoing series. Histori­cally at this venue, Pakistan holds a 3-2 win-loss record, while Afghanistan has secured victory in 1 out of their 4 match­es played here. 

The head-to-head statistics between Pakistan and Afghanistan heavily fa­vor Pakistan, with the Men in Green securing victory in 5 matches, leav­ing Afghanistan still in search of their maiden triumph against their rivals. As both teams step onto the field for the Second ODI, cricket enthusiasts world­wide can anticipate another exhilarat­ing encounter, poised for a riveting clash between bat and ball. 

PAKISTAN’S PROBABLE PLAYING XI: Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam (c), Muhammad Rizwan, Iftikhar Ahmed, Salman Ali Agha, Shadab Khan, Usama Mir, Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf.

Azhar Khan is an accomplished senior sports journalist with extensive experience in the field. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @azharmasood786

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