Afghanistan will be looking to affect the biggest upset of the tournament so far, after registering their biggest win so far, against Bangladesh © AFP
By Bharath Ramaraj
Mar 2, 2014
High on confidence after their historic win over the Asia Cup 2014 hosts Bangladesh, Mohammad Nabi-led Afghanistan take on the table-toppers Sri Lanka in the seventh match of the tournament at Mirpur on Monday.
Afghanistan, playing their first Asia Cup tournament have been extremely impressive so far in their campaign, as they put Pakistan in tremendous pressure in their first match and in the second, they trumped Bangladesh by 32 runs in the second match.
Asghar Stanikzai and Samiullah Shenwari added a record 164 runs for the sixth wicket to power their side to a strong total, and the bowlers never allowed the opposition batsmen to get away in the clash at Fatullah.
The main strength of Afghanistan team lies in their bowling. They certainly have a strong bowling line-up to fall back on. The towering giant, Shapoor Zadran can generate bounce and in One-Day Internationals (ODIs), the left-armer’s angle will always come in handy against right-handed batsmen. Hamid Hassan can reverse the old ball.
The leg-spinning all-rounder Shenwari and the parsimonious off-spinner Nabi add variety to the attack. The ever-reliable seamer Dawlat Zadran was left out from the setup for the last game and that in itself gives an indication about Afghanistan’s formidable bowling line-up.
In the batting department, wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Shahzad can play sumptuous shots. Stanikzai has a fine record to his name as well. Nawrooz Mangal has the ability to play with steady perfection, if needed. In addition to it, Shenwari and Nabi provide depth to their lower middle-order.
But the challenge for Afghanistan will be tougher this time around as they are up against a Sri Lankan setup, who have acclimatised themselves to the conditions in Bangladesh. Sri Lanka are coming off from a win over the Indians. Sri Lanka’s seasoned campaigner, Kumar Sangakkara played with unruffled elegance in the last game and took them to a fine victory.
However, they need other batsmen to pull up their socks. Kusal Perera can play scintillating shots but sometimes can gift his wicket away. Veteran batsman Mahela Jayawardene has struggled for runs in ODIs recently which isn’t helping their cause either.
Lasith Malinga, who seemed to have lost a yard of pace leading to him struggling to take wickets showed his worth by taking a five-wicket haul against Pakistan. For a bowler who is so skiddy through the air, he needs to generate a good burst of pace to take maximum advantage of those yorkers. Ajantha Mendis and Sachithra Senanayake should prove to be a handful against inexperienced Afghanistan batsmen.
Generally, inexperienced batsmen struggle to pick variations of a spinner. If both the teams are analysed on paper, Sri Lanka seem to have all aces up their sleeve, yet, don’t underestimate the plucky Afghanistan setup.
The track at Mirpur is expected to be on the slower side and should help bowlers to get grip from the surface. A total of around 260-270 should be a good score while batting first. It has to be always remembered though; in day and night games in Bangladesh, the dew can play a major factor.
Afghanistan: Mohammad Nabi (c), Naowroz Mangal, Asghar Stanikzai, Dawlat Zadran, Fazal Niazai, Hamid Hassan, Hamza Hotak, Karim Sadiq, Mirwaiz Ashraf, Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Najibullah Zadran, Noor Ali Zadran, Rahmat Shah, Samiullah Shenwari, Shapoor Zadran.
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (c), Kusal Perera, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Mahela Jayawardene, Thisara Perera, Chaturanga de Silva, Dinesh Chandimal, Sachithra Senanayake, Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal, Ajantha Mendis, Ashan Priyanjan and Dhammika Prasad.
Time: 8:00 GMT I 13:30 IST
(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)