Having enjoyed a meteoric rise in international cricket, the Afghans will be making only their second appearance in the continental competition after they failed to qualify for the last edition in 2016.
Speaking ahead of their campaign opener, skipper Asghar Afghan has warned that his men are not in the UAE to simply make up the numbers.
“We are not here just to play but to perform. Our players have got enough experience playing big international matches. They have performed well in leading cricket leagues so we are hopeful of doing well in this tournament as well,” the 30-year-old told ANI News.
They will be up against a Sri Lanka side who were handed a 137-run thrashing by Bangladesh on Saturday and the Afghanistan skipper is confident of putting in a good show against the islanders.
“Sri Lanka is an experienced side. We have had some good matches against them, be it in World Cup, T20 format or one-day matches. We are confident that we can perform well against them,” he stated.
“India-Pakistan clash will be the best match of the tournament as whenever these two nations go against each other, people from around the world show interest, Moreover, the cricketing tussle between India and Pakistan is of another level. Both the teams have got good combination as well. While India are coming after competing in tough England conditions, Sarfraz Ahmed-led Pakistan side is also doing very well,” Afghan said.
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In an interview with the Times of India, Prasad warned underperforming stars that their place could be given to younger players if they did not make the most of the opportunities to them. After narrowly losing the Test series in South Africa 2-1 earlier in the year, the No1 ranked Indians were expected to run England much closer.
“When we pick players for particular slots, they should be given enough opportunities before we move on and look at youngsters,” Prasad was quoted as saying.
“Yes, our openers could have done better. Having said that, the England openers also failed miserably. The conditions were tough and the openers of both the teams failed,” he added.
While Virat Kohli ended up the series top-scorer with 593 runs, the rest of the batting card left plenty to be desired. India’s Test stalwarts like Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane shone only in patches with the former striking a brilliant unbeaten ton in the defeat at Southampton while the latter registered two half-centuries.
While defending the performances of the two senior players, Prasad urged them to show more consistency.
“They (Pujara and Rahane) have enough experience behind them to be the mainstay of our middle order. They did well here too but they could have been a bit more consistent,” the former India wicketkeeper said.
India’s next overseas assignment will take place in Australia at the end of the year where Kohli’s men are slated to play four Tests, three ODIs and as many T20s. India’s underperforming batsmen will be wary of their place in the squad if Prasad’s latest words are anything to go by.
“After giving enough opportunities, if the players don’t deliver then in all fairness we need to look at youngsters who are doing well on the domestic cricket circuit and for India ‘A’,” the India selector stated.
Bangladesh put on 261 on the board after batting first with opener Tamim Iqbal coming out to bat at No11 despite retiring hurt early on with a fractured visit.
In the end, Sri Lanka were bowled out for just 124 in their reply. Here, we look at the talking points from the tournament opener.
MALINGA’S GRAND RETURN ROCKS SRI LANKA
Before even a ball had been bowled at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, all eyes were on one man who was making his ODI return for the first time in over a year.
Lasith Malinga’s comeback to international cricket more than lived up to its expectations with the veteran pacer striking twice in the very first over of Bangladesh’s innings. With his characteristic slinging action, the 35-year-old got Liton Das to knick one towards slips with his fifth delivery.
Flashbacks of a Malinga in a his prime came with the next delivery with the pacer’s searing in-swinging yorker leaving Bangladesh star all-rounder with no chance as the ball crashed into the stumps.
The Sri Lankan was not just done there and returned in the 26th over to break a stubborn stand by dismissing Mohammad Mithun. He soon had his fourth victim of the innings when Mosadek Hossain perishing this time. A five-wicket haul eluded the pacer after a timely review by Rubel Hossain but not a single boundary was scored off the veteran’s 10 overs.
MUSHFIQUR’S BATTLING TON RESCUES THE TIGERS
After Malinga’s early burst, Bangladesh’s woes were compounded when opener Tamim Iqbal had to retire hurt after being struck in the wrist. From then on, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mohammad Mithun settled the nerves in the dressing room with a 133-run stand which was ultimately broken by Malinga.
However, Mushfiqur was not yet done and despite the scorching heat and humidity in Dubai, the right-hander played perhaps his greatest ODI innings. After soaking in the pressure early on his innings, he unleashed a plethora of shots all over the park in the death to propel Bangladesh’s faltering innings.
The former skipper brought up his sixth ODI ton in style and continued to soldier on despite wickets falling around him. He made the most of his luck at the start of the innings with Sri Lanka’s fielders dropping some sitters and provided the perfect finish to the innings
Despite being completely sapped of any energy in the final overs, Mushfiqur kept landing blow after blow with his bat and notched up his highest ODI score and the second highest in the tournament’s history in a 150-ball effort before being the final man dismissed.
Top innings from Mushfiqur Rahim. Played out periods in the match perfectly and couldn't have timed his assault any better.— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) September 15, 2018
SRI LANKA’S SORRY BATTING EFFORT
Sri Lanka started their chase of 262 on fire with opener Upul Tharanga looking extremely good early on but the wheels started coming off quickly once Kusan Mendis was dismissed in the second over by Mustafizur Rahman. With Tharanga and Dhananjaya de Silva all departing inside the first five overs, the islanders were left with an uphill task.
Angelo Mathews’ men required someone to play the anchor just like Mushfiqur had done for Bangladesh but none of the batsmen put their hands up to take responsibility.
It was club-level batting from the islanders with Dasun Shanaka’s run-out exemplifying their brainless approach at times. Once the scoreboard pressure started adding up, the Sri Lankans simply wilted under the pressure before ultimately being bundled out for just 124 runs.