One of the more awaited battles will be between Bangladesh’s batsmen and Afghanistan’s spin twins in Rashid and Mujeeb. © AFP
Past 12 months have been a journey to remember for the Afghanistan cricket team. After being granted Full Member status by the ICC and awarded their maiden Test, against India, Afghanistan comfortably earned their spot in the 2019 One-Day World Cup and then went on to win the Qualifier title by beating Windies in the summit clash. While the approaching Test debut remains the high-profile and much-awaited fixture for them, Afghanistan will resume international season by hosting Bangladesh for a three-match T20I series in their second adopted home – Uttarakhand’s capital city of Dehradun – starting Sunday (June 3).
Afghanistan and Bangladesh have faced off only once before in a T20I, during the 2014 ICC World Twenty20, that the latter won quite comfortably. However, on current form, the hosts are ranked eighth in the ICC rankings, two spots above their opponents Bangladesh, having swept Zimbabwe in the two-match series in the UAE in February. Bangladesh’s lower ranking could be misleading, for they almost won the Nidahas Trophy in Sri Lanka in their most-recent T20I assignment. However, the familiarity with the conditions in Dehradun’s newly inaugurated Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium will give the hosts an undeniable edge in the series opener.
Afghanistan have defended a 150 score (against Uttarakhand) and chased down a 146-run target with 16 balls to spare (against Bangladesh XI) in the two practice matches in the lead up to the series. And the addition of Rashid Khan, easily the hottest property in T20 cricket at the moment, and Mujeeb ur Rahman will only strengthen their bowling department further in the spin-friendly conditions expected for the series. The spin duo, in fact, would be the cynosure of all eyes given their success in the just-concluded 11th edition of the Indian Premier League. Mohammad Shahzad and skipper Asghar Stanikzai will be expected to hold the batting together. It’s an area of concern for the hosts, but Shafiqullah Shafaq’s 44 and Samiullah Shenwari’s 34 in the first warm-up comes as a big relief.
Bangladesh will bank on experience to counter Afghanistan’s enthusiasm that has fueled their recent growth in the international arena. They’ll have a point to prove after being outplayed in their only practice game ahead of the series. Captain Shakib al Hasan is the only member of the touring party that has had some T20 match-time recently, having turned out for runners-up Sunriers Hyderabad in the IPL final last Sunday. Having said, Bangladesh have enough experienced hands in their ranks to challenge Afghanistan.
Apart from Shakib, Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim and Soumya Sarkar will be the glue in the batting department while Mahmudullah will once again assume the role of a finisher that he carried out in Sri Lanka. However, the bowling looks weakened with the late withdrawal of pace spearhead Mustafizur Rahman. Bangladesh will rely heavily on Shakib, Rubel Hossain and Mehidy Hasan Miraz to deliver the goods.
When: Afghanistan vs Bangladesh, 1st T20I on June 3 at 8pm IST (2:30pm GMT)
Where: Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium, Dehradun
What to expect: A sunny Sunday with temperature likely to hit a maximum of 34 degrees Celsius in the day. There’s 20 per cent chances of rain which would mean comparatively cooler nights. The virgin pitch is expected to be on the slower side.
Star attraction Rashid was a part of the World XI side for the charity game at Lord’s on Thursday, but has joined back just in time for the series. The bigger concern though is Mujeeb’s wrist injury that kept him out of action for the later part of his maiden IPL stint with Kings XI Punjab.
Tamim, who was also a part of the World XI, has also linked up with the squad ahead of the game. Bangladesh though would be fretting over a replacement for Mustafizur, who pulled out at the eleventh hour owing to a toe injury he sustained during IPL.
Did you know?
– Asghar Stanikzai needs another 93 runs to reach the 1,000 runs milestone, while Mohammad Nabi is only 39 runs away.
– Rashid Khan needs three more wickets to become the second Afghanistan player to take 50 wickets in T20Is.
What they said:
“Rashid’s ranking speaks for itself. He is a world-class bowler. But both the teams need to play to their full potential,” said Bangladesh captain Shakib al Hasan.
Afghanistan: Asghar Stanikzai (c), Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Najeeb Tarakai, Usman Ghani, Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shenwari, Shafiqullah Shafiq, Darwish Rasooli, Karim Janat, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Shapoor Zadran, Aftab Alam.
Bangladesh: Shakib Al Hasan (c), Mahmudullah, Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar, Liton Das, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Sabbir Rahman, Mosaddek Hossain, Ariful Haque, Mehidy Hasan, Nazmul Islam, Abu Hider Rony, Rubel Hossain, Abu Jayed, Abul Hasan.