LEEDS    -   Pakistan, with their new found confidence stemming from back-to-back wins, will look to put on another clinical performance against Afghanistan to keep themselves in contention for a spot in their semi-finals.

No other team can quite demonstrate the game’s unpredictable nature like Pakistan can. Their recent surge in form, with back-to-back wins against South Africa and New Zealand, has brought about interesting prospects in the final leg of the league stage at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019. They have bounced back strongly from their initial setbacks, much like they did in 1992, and now find themselves in a position identical to the one during their victorious campaign 27 years ago.

Haris Sohail, the aggressive left-hander, has probably been the source of much needed inspiration for Pakistan with his game changing contributions in the last two games. Haris Sohail, who scored 89 and 68 in his last two outings, will eye another match-winning contribution on Saturday. Haris was a casualty of his side’s opening defeat to West Indies, left out of the side for the subsequent four games.

But the left-hander, deployed at number three in March’s series against Australia, has been recast as a fluent number five and spearheaded successive victories over South Africa and New Zealand.

“The way I was batting in the Australia series, I was in good form even then,” said Haris. “I have a slightly different role for the World Cup, I’m batting at five, but wherever you bat the basics should be simple and based on the requirement of the situation. Whenever I’ve played before, I’ve never been out of the team because of my performances. I had a bad surgery and it was because of that I was struggling. Of course I felt a little bad when I was dropped, but I was thinking only about the team - it was for the betterment of the team. When we play for Pakistan, we have one aim: what is best for Pakistan. As such I haven’t changed anything, I’m playing according to the situation and thankfully succeeding.”

The 30-year-old also batted in an unexpectedly aggressive manner at Lord’s, his strike-rate against soaring to 150 – far dwarfing his career rate of 85. The Punjab product can expect to face spin almost exclusively in the middle overs against Afghanistan and it’s clear Mickey Arthur has his side studying mystery man Mujeeb Ur Rahman. “We have kept it very simple. We are taking the World Cup match-by-match,” said Haris. “They have quality spinners and we have seen a lot of videos to try and work out their variations. We lost to Afghanistan in a warm-up - they played very good cricket that day. We hope to play better cricket and win. Every match has a different pressure and at a World Cup, there is always pressure. Hopefully we will see a good match against Afghanistan.”

While Mohammad Amir has been a consistent performer with the ball, Babar Azam’s match-winning innings at Edgbaston comes as a huge positive for the Sarfaraz Ahmed-led side. A win against Afghanistan on Saturday will keep them well and truly in the semi-final race, as the competition stiffens.

Afghanistan, much like West Indies, have shown flashes of brilliance for brief moments in almost each of their matches, but are yet to put on a complete match performance, which keeps them deprived of their first win in this tournament. While the bowlers put on a strong performance in their last two games against India and Bangladesh, lack of partnerships with the bat cost them on both occasions.

The Gulbadin Naib-led side will look to seek confidence from their warm-up fixture against Pakistan, where they had emerged victorious by three wickets. Mujeeb Ur Rahman, the 18-year old, has been posing a lot of problems for the top-order batsmen in the last few matches. Mujeeb, whose spell of 2/33 almost got Afghanistan over the line in the Asia Cup fixture against Pakistan last year, will look to produce his best to power his side their first win of the tournament.

Rashid, ranked third in the ICC ODI bowling rankings, hasn’t yet set the showpiece alight and was visibly frustrated with his team’s efforts in the field in their defeat to Bangladesh. But Gulbadin reminded the world of the threat posed by the 20-year-old, whose tally of 125 ODI wickets since the 2015 World Cup is bettered only by England’s Adil Rashid. “Pakistan are a strong team and played spin very well in this last two games,” said Gulbadin. “But Rashid is a different spinner, he’s very different to other leg-spinners, it’s very difficult to pick him.”

  In this World Cup, I don’t think he’s been at his best but he’s given everything in terms of effort. On his day, it’s very difficult for any team to deal with him. Rashid is trying to give 100 per cent and trying his best, this is a World Cup, everyone just wants to give their best performances. If it is a Rashid day, it’s very difficult for anyone.”