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Focus changes as Afghanistan eyes new challenge

The team will be on a high as it challenges for top Associate and Affiliate honours in all formats of the game

Focus changes as Afghanistan eyes new challenge - Cricket News
Afghanistan will enter as a confident unit in the ICC Intercontinental Cup match against Canada.
Afghanistan will take the next step on the path of its development from Saturday as it takes on Canada in the ICC Intercontinental Cup 2009-10 at Sharjah.

The team, which last week qualified for the first major ICC event in the country's history when it won the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier in the United Arab Emirates, will be on a high as it challenges for top Associate and Affiliate honours in all formats of the international game.

From the frenetic Twenty20 game, Kabir Khan's charges must now concentrate on four-day cricket and the specific challenges presented by the longer form of cricket. But having beaten defending champion Ireland in Dambulla, Sri Lanka last month, it's not as if confidence will be low among the Afghans, who are rapidly becoming heroes in their homeland.

"Every team in the ICC Intercontinental Cup is more experienced than us, such as Ireland, Canada and Zimbabwe XI," said Kabir.

"They have been playing four-day cricket for a long time and our boys have only just come into the competition and are going through the learning process and we do have a lot of respect for the Canadian team.

"On the other hand, our boys have been performing really well in the ICC Intercontinental Cup and they have beaten teams like Ireland and the Netherlands.

"Sharjah is normally a good batting track and our bowling has a lot of variety. Our batting goes to number nine and the boys have adjusted to the game quite well. We have prepared a lot for four-day cricket by playing innings matches and then two-day games before we played any of the Intercontinental Cup games. In Sri Lanka we played three two-day games and the boys are really talented and hungry to learn every aspect of the game and prove they can do well in any format of the game," said Kabir.

"As a coach and for the team, I am very proud that we beat Ireland as nobody had been able to achieve this for a very long time. If we are good enough to beat Ireland then we are good enough to beat the other teams," he said.

Notwithstanding Afghanistan's confidence, Canada, the runner-up in this competition in 2008, feels it is the better team at four-day cricket.

"I think although Afghanistan are a good Twenty20 side they're not as good with the four-day game and that's where we're going to have an advantage over them as we've got better experience within our side of the format," said batsman Sunil Dhaniram.

"We're still full of energy despite our poor performance at the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier and I think Afghanistan will probably still be in Twenty20 mode when they come to the Intercontinental Cup fixture which could work very much to our advantage as we've had time to prepare ourselves for this type of game.

"I'm sure with the likes of Ashish Bagai leading us and Rizwan Cheema we're going to do well at Sharjah for this fixture."

It is an important match for Canada, which is currently bottom of the pile while Afghanistan will move ahead of Scotland in first place if it avoids defeat in the game, which gets underway in Sharjah on Saturday morning.

The other match starting on Saturday is Kenya v Netherlands in Nairobi in what is a crucial game for both teams.

The strong home side could move up to second place in the table with an outright win while the Dutch would jump to third place with a similar result, and that would be with a game in hand on the field. Netherlands coach Peter Drinnen is confident of a good showing from his players.

"I think we can take a lot from playing in the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier in confidence when we face Kenya for the Intercontinental Cup fixtures," said Drinnen.

"The guys are playing some pretty good cricket and we obviously just need to adjust tactically for this format. We have the majority of the squad here in Kenya that was in Dubai although we did have a few who flew back home. I don't see it as anything major for us adapting to the four-day game from the shorter format and as long as we stick to the basics and maintain our confidence I think we'll be fine.

"We've played Kenya a lot over the years and both teams are very familiar with each other. They're on home turf so that may certainly be an advantage but we are in good spirits and high in confidence after a few good performances in Dubai so I'm hoping we'll do very well."


Kenya (squad): Maurice Ouma (captain), Jimmy Kamande, Alex Obanda, Tony Suji, Collins Obuya, Shem Ngoche, Nehemiah Odhiambo, Lameck Onyango, Peter Ongondo, Hiren Varaiya, Rakep Patel, Elijah Otieno, Nielson Odhiambo, David Obuya, James Ngoche.

Netherlands (squad): Peter Borren (captain), Mudassar Bukhari, Atse Buurman, Tom de Grooth, Tim Gruijters, Mark Jonkman, Alex Kervezee, Pieter Seelaar, Eric Szwarczynski, Ryan ten Doeschate, Bas Zuiderent, Ruud Nijman, Nick Statham.

Afghanistan (squad): Nawroz Mangal (captain), Shabir Ahmad Noori, Karim Khan Sadiq, Mohammad Nabi Eisakhil, Mirwais Ashraf, Rais Ahmadzai, Mohammad Shahzad Mohammadi, Hamid Hassan, Samiullah Shinwari, Shafiqullah Shafaq, Noor Ali Noori, Asghar Stanikzai, Shahpoor Zadran, Aftab Alam.

Canada (squad): Ashish Bagai (captain), Umar Bhatti, Trevin Bastiampillai, Usman Limbada, Harvir Baidwan, Jawad Dawood, Ramesh David, Rizwan Cheema, Khurram Chohan, Sunil Dhaniram, Sandeep Jyoti, Nitesh Kumar, Hiral Patel.

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