17 February 2015
Bangladesh v Afghanistan Preview, Match 7, Canberra
If Afghanistan can balance circumspection and innate aggression, it will test the more experienced Bangladesh
Much has been made of Afghanistan's victory over Bangladesh at the last Asia Cup in 2014, but it will be well aware that its opponent was without Shakib Al Hasan (R), its best player, and Tamim Iqbal, its most explosive batsman, at the time.
When it makes its first appearance in the competition at the Manuka Oval in Canberra on Wednesday (February 18), the challenge before Afghanistan is to ensure that it follows Ireland’s path when it comes to World Cup debutants.
Much has been made of its victory over Bangladesh at the last Asia Cup in 2014, but the Afghans will be well aware that their opponent was without Shakib Al Hasan, its best player, and Tamim Iqbal, its most explosive batsman, at the time. Bangladesh may have had an indifferent build-up, but there is plenty of skill in the ranks and an experienced core, which always helps at the big tournaments.
The conditions will also be completely different. The Manuka Oval has hosted just three matches since South Africa and Zimbabwe played there during the 1992 World Cup, but the pitch will certainly offer more by way of pace and bounce than that Asia Cup surface. That should help Afghanistan, who has a pace attack capable of worrying more heralded sides. Hamid Hassan has taken 22 wickets in his last ten ODIs, while the Zadrans – Shapoor and Dawlat – offer a different sort of test. Mirwais Ashraf also bowled tidily in the warm-up against India.
Bangladesh, so used to relying on spin in home conditions, will also go in with three pacers. Mashrafe Mortaza remains the standard-bearer, but Taskin Ahmed is an exciting prospect, and they are likely to be joined by one of the Hossains. The vastly more experienced Rubel should get the nod over Al-Amin.
For spin, Bangladesh will rely on Taijul Islam and Mahmudullah in addition to Shakib, who remains its most reliable player by a distance. Afghanistan struggled against the Indian spinners, and even on a relatively quick pitch, it should surprise no one if Bangladesh opts to try and exploit its spin strengths.
For Afghanistan, the key to success is composure. Its batsmen are all capable of being destructive, but questions remain over their ability to construct an innings. Unlike in Asia, the conditions here do not favour a gung-ho approach from the first ball. If the team can find a healthy medium between innate aggression and circumspection, it will give Bangladesh a real test.
Mohammad Nabi, the Afghanistan captain, was certain that his team was ready. “We've prepared well,” he said. “The players are immensely fitter than what they were a year ago. They understand the hardness of the game. We've played against some pretty good opposition over the last six-seven months by touring and playing in Western Australia and New Zealand. We played India the other day.
“Are we nervous? No, we're excited. But we know we're in for some serious challenges in this competition. But if we do our things right and only concentrate on our own skills, the results and performances will look after themselves.”
Those that love a cricketing fairy tale will be watching their progress with eager eyes.
Bangladesh (likely): Tamim Iqbal, Anamul Haque, Soumya Sarkar, Mahmudullah, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Shakib Al Hasan, Sabbir Rahman, Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), Taijul Islam, Taskin Ahmed, Rubel Hossain.
Afghanistan (likely from): Javed Ahmadi, Usman Ghani, Nawroz Mangal, Asghar Stanikzai, Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shenwari, Mohammad Nabi (capt), Afsar Zazai (wk), Mirwais Ashraf, Shapoor Zadran, Dawlat Zadran, Hamid Hassan.
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