If it’s Rashid Khan’s day then Pakistan are in trouble.
That’s the warning sounded by Afghanistan skipper Gulbadin Naib as his side aim to put the skids under the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup’s form team at Headingley.
Rashid, ranked third in the ICC ODI bowling rankings, hasn’t yet set the showpiece alight and was visibly frustrated with his team’s efforts in the field in their defeat to Bangladesh.
But Gulbadin reminded the world of the threat posed by the 20-year-old, whose tally of 125 ODI wickets since the 2015 World Cup is bettered only by England’s Adil Rashid.
“Pakistan are a strong team and played spin very well in this last two games,” said Gulbadin.
“But Rashid is a different spinner, he’s very different to other leg-spinners, it’s very difficult to pick him.
“In this World Cup, I don’t think he’s been at his best but he’s given everything in terms of effort. On his day, it’s very difficult for any team to deal with him.
“Rashid is trying to give 100 per cent and trying his best, this is a World Cup, everyone just wants to give their best performances.
“If it is a Rashid day, it’s very difficult for anyone.”
Pakistan have shown their prowess against the turning ball in successive victories over South Africa and New Zealand that have propelled them to within a point of the semi-final spots.
Particularly impressive was the manner in which Haris Sohail and Babar Azam negotiated sharp spin on a used pitch at Edgbaston, paving the way for a six-wicket success over the Black Caps.
Rashid’s spin twin Mujeeb Ur Rahman has been Afghanistan’s standout performer and shackled India’s vaunted top order, dismissing Rohit Sharma and conceding just 26 runs from his ten overs.
Gulbadin revealed the 18-year-old was left out of the team to face South Africa and New Zealand due to concerns over the fluency of his bowling action but is delighted by his recent displays.
“We were worried about Mujeeb’s action in the first couple of games,” he explained.
“He was missing something. He went away with our coach and video analyst to work on it and he has his form and rhythm back now.
“If you look at his last few games, he’s bowled really well. I think he had lost some of his momentum and his bowling grip.
“In the last few games he did a really good job for the team. We hope he will give us 100 per cent against Pakistan.”
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