Afghanistan technically fall in the category of minnows at the 2019 World Cup, if that term is to be used at all this summer in England.
They had to qualify for the tournament, though they shouldn’t have as they are a Test nation and the ICC has squeezed the tournament down to 10 teams. Anyhow, for the purpose of discussion, Afghanistan can be termed ‘minnows’ as they have the least international experience among the teams at the World Cup.
But for a team light on experience, Afghanistan pack a huge punch when it comes to team combination and resources. While Test cricket has probably come too soon for them, white-ball cricket is right down their ally.
Afghanistan openers Mohammad Shahzad and Hazratullah Zazi are undoubtedly the most devastating openers of the World Cup; during the T10 League in the UAE Shahzad helped chased down 95 in four overs while Zazai smashed six sixes in an over in the Afghanistan Premier League.
Their middle order of Hashmatullah Shahidi, Asghar Afghan and Mohammad Nabi is brimming with quality and experience. But it’s their bowling that truly sets Afghanistan apart.
Ask any cricket fan about Afghanistan’s bowling and the first name that comes to most minds is Rashid Khan. Fair enough as the young leg-spinner has quickly become the premier white-ball spinner anywhere in the world.
- Afghanistan victory - against Pakistan -,wasn’t a fluke but a reflection of their all around strength. They are capable of upsetting settled units in the World Cup for sure.— Asif Khan (@mak_asif) May 25, 2019
But right after Rashid are equally remarkable one-day bowlers, as Pakistan found out during their defeat to the Afghans in the World Cup warm-up match.
Mystery spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman and veteran fast bowlers Dawlat Zadran and Hamid Hasan provide a decisive edge to their attack that can take wickets at any stage of the match.
Pakistan found that the hard way as they bowled out inside 48 overs on a good pitch in Bristol.
It should come as no surprise that Afghanistan are where they are the moment; they were the most consistent team in the Asia Cup in the UAE last year, defeating Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and tying a game against India. They have conceded more than 300 just four times in 114 ODIs and that is a staggering achievement over a decade.
Three world-class and varied spinners in Rashid, Mujeeb and Nabi, plus quality pacers give Afghanistan the ammunition to remain competitive against any team. They are the absolute masters of the 250-270 run one-dayer and if conditions are not as flat as some expect them to be this World Cup, watch out for Afghanistan.
Afghanistan’s cricket team claimed a historic first Test win on Monday as they beat Ireland by seven wickets.
Rahmat Shah and Ihsanullah Janat scored fifties for the war-torn country as they chased down 147 for victory on day four in Dehradun, India.
Afghanistan were steered to their target by a 139-run partnership between Shah, who made 76, and debutant Janat, who hit an unbeaten 65.
Shah, a top-order batsman, registered his second fifty of the match after making 98 in Afghanistan’s first innings score of 314.
With three needed to win, Afghanistan lost Shah and then Mohammad Nabi in successive deliveries before Hashmatullah Shahidi came to the crease and hit the winning boundary to trigger celebrations in the Afghanistan camp.
Ace spinner Rashid Khan, who is second in the ICC one-day international rankings, had played a key role in the historic win by taking five wickets on Sunday’s day three to help dismiss Ireland for 288 in their second innings.
Khan returned career-best figures of five for 82 to stall Ireland’s resurgence after Andy Balbirnie and Kevin O’Brien had hit gritty half-centuries.
Balbirnie made 82 and O’Brien 56 before a 10th-wicket 58-run partnership between James Cameron-Dow and Tim Murtagh set up the potentially tricky chase for the Afghans.
Spinner Andy McBrine had opener Mohammad Shahzad caught behind for two in the final session on day three before Janat and Shah played out the last few overs.
The overnight batsmen were tested by the Ireland bowlers early in Monday’s morning session with Janat surviving a reprieve on 18.
Stuart Thompson spilled an easy catch at extra cover off George Dockrell and Janat cashed in alongside the in-form Shah.
Paceman Yamin Ahmadzai and spinner Mohammad Nabi took three wickets each on the opening day to bowl out Ireland for 172.
Shah and skipper Asghar Afghan, who made 67 to steer their team to a crucial first-innings lead of 142.
For Ireland Tim Murtagh stood out with scores of 54 not out and 27 batting at number 11.
It was Afghanistan’s second Test outing after making their debut last year when they lost to India inside two days in Bangalore. Ireland have also played two five-day games.
Afghanistan mystery spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman is one of the most difficult bowlers to attack in white-ball cricket. On Thursday, the teen sensation proved it once against during the first ODI against Ireland in Dehradun, India.
Bowling first against the Irish, Mujeeb opened the bowling and registered unbelievable figures of 3-14 from his full quota of 10 overs. The 17-year-old bowled three maidens and conceded just one boundary in his spell.
Mujeeb’s effort helped Afghanistan bowl Ireland out for 161. It was the sixth most economical 10-over spell by a spinner in ODI cricket history.
India’s Sunil Joshi holds the record for the most economical spell by a spinner in ODIs – five wickets for six runs. In all, 10 bowlers have bowled their full quota of 10 overs and conceded just 14 runs.
Mujeeb’s economy rate in T20 matches is a superb 6.7 and an incredible 3.8 in List A games.