Afghanistan vs South Africa – T20 World Cup semifinal: Weather, pitch, toss

Afghanistan face unbeaten South Africa with ‘nothing to lose’ but will be eyeing more history in the T20 World Cup 2024.

Rashid Khan has become the first captain to lead Afghanistan into the semifinals of an ICC Cricket World Cup [File: Ramon Espinosa/AP]

Who: Afghanistan vs South Africa
What: ICC T20 World Cup 2024 semifinal
When: Wednesday, June 26, 8:30pm local time (00:30 GMT, June 27)
Where: Brian Lara Cricket Academy, San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago
How to follow: Al Jazeera’s live coverage begins at 18:30 GMT

Fourteen years after making their debut at the ICC T20 Cricket World Cup, Afghanistan find themselves in dreamland.

A country that picked up the game amid a war, practised and perfected it mostly on foreign pitches, and grew to love it madly through calamities, has reached its first semifinal of an ICC men’s World Cup within a remarkably short timeframe.

When Rashid Khan leads his team out on the field at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy Ground on Wednesday night, he’ll be hoping to make Trinidad and Tobago’s most famous son proud.

After all, as Rashid revealed in his comments after beating Bangladesh, Brian Lara was the only cricket pundit to have listed Afghanistan as one of his pre-tournament favourites.

“The only guy who put us in the semifinals was Brian Lara and we proved him right,” Rashid said.

“When we met him at a welcome party, I told him we won’t let you down.”

‘Unchartered territory’

Afghanistan would have barely recovered from their nerve-jangling win over Bangladesh – and subsequent celebrations – before getting on a plane to island-hop across the Caribbean Sea to reach the venue of their semifinal.

They will have to shake off the fatigue and celebratory mode swiftly as South Africa, one of the only two unbeaten sides in the tournament, arrived in San Fernando earlier and await them in the semifinal.

Afghanistan coach Jonathan Trott said he believes it is “important to celebrate moments” but wants his team to “switch on and off at the right times”.

“For our guys, this is a new experience, a new type of pressure,” Trott said in his pre-semifinal media conference.

Trott said his side will have to “improve on a few little areas” for the match against South Africa.

“We go into the semifinal with no scarring or no history. This is uncharted territory for us. We’re just going to go out there and give it our all.

“For us it’s a new challenge and I think that makes us dangerous in the semifinals as a side with nothing to lose and obviously a lot of pressure on the opposition.”

‘Great to dream’

Pressure and history are things South Africa are all too familiar with, having lost in two T20 World Cup semifinals and five 50-over World Cup semifinals.

Their coach, Rob Walter, admitted the team is going through a “mixture of emotions – anxiety and excitement”, but must embrace it all before heading into the match.

The Proteas’ failure to win a World Cup despite their pedigree and history of producing leading cricketers will be weighing on the team and the nation but Walter said the team has pulled itself out of tricky situations in this tournament and will be raring to go against Afghanistan.

“We have encountered it all and we have been able to respond to the conditions pretty well,” Walter said on Tuesday.

Just as in Afghanistan, cricket fans in South Africa will watch the match with bated breath and prayers for that elusive first World Cup final.

“It’s always great to dream and I think everyone in South Africa dreams of the time when a trophy gets lifted,” the coach said.

“No doubt that will happen. Whether it’s going to be this week, that remains to be seen.”

Pitch condition and toss

The pitch in San Fernando has produced three low-scoring results, but that has largely been down to the comparatively weaker opposition [Uganda and Papua New Guinea] setting low targets after being asked to bat first. Nevertheless, a first-innings total of 200-plus seems unlikely on the bowler-friendly surface.

All four matches have seen the toss-winning captain opting to field first and given the trend in the Caribbean, it will be no surprise if either Markram or Rashid choose to do the same.

Weather forecast

The match could be affected by rain but the forecast is less ominous in the evening, and since San Fernando is hosting a late game, there’s a possibility of having an uninterrupted match on Wednesday night.

Are there any special conditions and rules for the semifinal?

Yes, extra time and a reserve day have been allocated to the first semifinal.

An extra 60 minutes will be added to the match time on Wednesday. If the match is still not completed, it will be moved to a reserve day – Thursday, June 27 – and a playing time of 190 minutes will be allocated.

What happens if the semifinal is washed out?

The team that finished on top of its Super Eights group will advance to the final.

In such a case [abandoned match], South Africa will progress.

INTERACTIVE - Men's T20 World Cup-stadiums-venues-map-2023 copy 2-1716469524
(Al Jazeera)

Head-to-head

The only two meetings between these sides came in previous T20 World Cups – in 2010 and 2016 – and South Africa won comfortably on both occasions.

Form guide

Afghanistan have had a wobbly end to their pre-knockouts run after beginning the tournament with three straight wins. Their two losses – against West Indies in Group B and against India in Group 1 – have been heavy but Rashid’s team recovered to win the two games that brought them to the semifinals.

South Africa are one of the only two unbeaten teams in the tournament and have managed to pull themseleves out of nerve-jangling situations to be counted among the favourites for the title.

Afghanistan: W W L L W
South Africa: W W W W W

Afghanistan team news

Unless Gulbadin Naib’s dramatic hamstring injury – from which he seemingly recovered swiftly – lingers on, Afghanistan are expected to field the same XI that faced Bangladesh in their last match.

Rahmanullah Gurbaz is also likely to play despite taking a blow on his knee in the last match.

Predicted XI: Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wicketkeeper), Ibrahim Zadran, Azmatullah Omarzai, Gulbadin Naib, Mohammad Nabi, Karim Janat, Rashid Khan (captain), Nangeyalia Kharote, Noor Ahmad, Naveen-ul-Haq, Fazalhaq Farooqi

South Africa team news

South Africa could be tempted to bring back pacer Ottneil Baartman in place of left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj, given Afghanistan’s relative ease in playing spin bowling.

Predicted XI: Aiden Markram (captain), Quinton de Kock, Reeza Hendricks, Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller, Tristan Stubbs, Marco Jansen, Ottneil Baartman, Anrich Nortje, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi

Source: Al Jazeera