In what was an inconsequential dead rubber in the Asia Cup, Afghanistan kept up their impressive form with a commanding 136-run win over Bangladesh at the Sheikh Zayed stadium in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
Having put up a challenging 255-7 on the board after batting first, Afghanistan showed the quality in their bowling attack as they bundled out Bangladesh for just 119 runs.
With Afghanistan taking the top honours in Group B with two wins out of two, we take a look at the talking points.
IMPRESSIVE SHAKIB ROCKS AFGHANISTAN
After Bangladesh debutant Abu Hider had rocked the Afghanistan top-order with two early blows, Mohammad Shahzad and Hashmatullah Shahidi had resurrected the innings with a solid third-wicket stand.
The two batsmen’s fifty-plus partnership was threatening to take the game away from Bangladesh on a slow track before star all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan came to the aid of the Tigers.
Despite nursing a finger injury in the tournament, Shakib showed no signs of any discomfort as he put on a master-class of left-arm spin. The Bangladesh star got Shahzad to hole out to long-on before running through the Afghan middle-order like an express train. He accounted for Asghar Afghan, Samiullah Shenwari and Mohammad Nabi in an extended spell as Afghanistan found the going tough in the middle overs.
BIRTHDAY BOY RASHID KHAN’S CAMEO PROPELS AFGHANISTAN
After Shakib Al Hasan had broken the spine of their batting in the middle-overs, Afghanistan seemed to be headed for a sub-par score at Abu Dhabi before Rashid Khan and Gulbadin Naib turned the match upside down with an unbeaten 95-run stand for the eighth wicket.
Birthday boy Rashid smashed a 31-ball half-century with the help of eight boundaries and a massive six. It was only the second fifty in ODI cricket for the young wrist-spinner who just turned 20 with his only other half-century coming against Ireland in 2016.
He was ably supported by Naib who remained unbeaten on 42 with the help of eight boundaries. Their terrific acceleration in the death overs spoiled all the good work done by Bangladesh’s bowlers at the start as they went on to ensure that the Tigers would face an imposing chase of 256 on a crumbling surface.
NAIB AND RASHID EXCEL WITH BALL TOO AS TIGERS DISINTEGRATE
After turning on the heat with bat in hand, Naib and Rashid turned heroes for Afghanistan with the ball too as Bangladesh disintegrated on a slow pitch at the Sheikh Zayed stadium.
Naib’s medium pace was deadly effective at the start of Bangladesh’s innings and the 27-year-old inflicted two early blows. He first had the beating of Mominul Haque who edged behind to the wicketkeeper and then got Mohammad Mithun to chop a wide delivery onto the stumps.
His two early wickets meant Bangladesh had lost four wickets before Rashid had even come on to bowl. The wrist-spin prodigy wasted no time in inflicting further misery to a batting-card missing Mushfiqur Rahim and Tamim Iqbal by trapping the well-set Shakib plumb on the pads. He then provided the dagger blow to Bangladesh’s hopes by castling the stumps of Mahmudullah with a sublime googly.
With all of their established batsmen back in the pavilion before the score had even touched 100, the Tigers were always fighting an uphill battle and ultimately lost it in the face of Afghanistan’s enormous quality in their bowling attack.
The two nations make the long trip from Dubai to Abu Dhabi as they look to begin the stage on a winning note after qualifying from their respective group.
Former champions Pakistan will be aiming to prove Wednesday’s eight-wicket loss to India was just a blip as they look to keep their dream of securing a third Asian title alive. However, they face a tough task against an Afghanistan side who eliminated five-time winners Sri Lanka on Monday. And batsman Masood admits his team will have to be at the top of their game to stop Rashid Khan and Co.
“I think if you see the bowling attack, especially spinners, then Afghanistan has the best unit in the tournament,” said the 28-year-old on Thursday.
“In UAE conditions, they have played as much cricket here as we have played. We will not take them lightly at all, especially after how they beat a good team like Sri Lanka. Afghanistan is a very good opposition and our aim is to focus on our strengths while negating theirs.”
While Pakistan will have a day’s rest, Afghanistan will be playing back-to-back matches following their clash against Bangladesh on Thursday evening.
And Masood insists the extra time off will be a big advantage to his side.
“Recovery is very important especially when you play day-night games,” he added. “We had optional practice and we focused on our skills and we will be a fresh unit and hopefully win against Afghanistan.”
Vijay Dutt Vyas, owner of the Rajputs team has been appointed the Global Director for T10 League Talent Hunt. The T10 League also appointed former Pakistan cricket captain Akram as Director T10 League Talent Hunt for Pakistan and former India skipper Azharuddin as their Director T10 League Talent Hunt for India.
Welcoming the two cricketing legends, Nawab Shaji Ul Mulk, chairman of the T10 League, said: “The appointment of Mohammad Azharuddin and Wasim Akram are the beginning of a new journey for the global T10 cricket movement and we are very excited to make the announcement today.
“The global talent hunt is designed to unearth the unsung heros from the cricketing world, especially India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, who do not get the opportunity to play cricket and the exposure that they deserve.
“This programme will help the talent not only to get a job in the UAE and be able to display their cricketing skills at international level. The Emirates Cricket Board is part of this programme and the good top-class cricketers will have a chance to play for the UAE national team.
“Following today’s announcement, we will soon appoint T10 Talent Hunt Directors for Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to strengthen the global talent hunt.”
Eight teams – Kerala Kings, Punjab Legends, Maratha Arabians, Bengal Tigers, The Karachians, Rajputs, Northern Warriors and Pakhtoons – have been drawn in to two groups to fight it out in the second edition. This will take place from November 23 to December 2 at Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
T10 League was launched last year by T10 Sports Management to popularise the game of cricket in its shortest format – that concludes within less than 90 minutes in which two teams bat it out in ten overs – or just 60 balls – thrilling the crowd.
Preparation for the Second Season of the T10 League started following the runaway success with sold-out stadium during all the four days of the first Season that drew full-gallery crowd at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium and watched by cheering fans across the GCC, South Asia and parts of the African continent where cricket is a popular sport.
A number of Bollywood and Lollywood celebrities from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will add festive flavour to the ten-day tournament to be watched live in more than 20 countries across the world.
“The Second Season of the T10 League is boosted by the formal recognition of the International Cricket Council and the interest shown by the stakeholders that encourages us to take the tournament to whole new level this year and cricketing fans can expect some fireworks during the 10-day extravaganza,” added Ul Mulk.
“We have now set up a central secretariat and revamped organisational structure to organise the T10 League that will match the fanfare seen only at global sporting events. All I can say that a lot of surprises are waiting for the cricket-lovers worldwide.
“This year’s T10 League will help expand and popularise the game of cricket further. We see this as a growing movement and I urge all to join this and help take the game further.”