Afghanistan aim to further Pakistan problems
Match factsThursday, February 27
Start time 1400 local (0800 GMT)
Big pictureAfghanistan could not have asked for better circumstances to make their Asia Cup debut: a benign pitch to stymie Pakistan's potent seam attack coupled with batsmen who fizzle out at all the wrong times. As much as Afghanistan hope to simply enjoy the occasion, the possibility of kicking off their campaign by downing a Test nation would be hard to ignore.
Profitable outings for six of the squad members in the Bangladesh domestic circuit will aid in assessing conditions. Mohammad Nabi, the captain, collected 223 runs in five Dhaka Premier Division matches. He knows he has the personnel to supply quick runs - Mohammad Shahzad is a firecracker in the top order - but it will be interesting to see if they can harness their natural instincts appropriately.
The only time these two teams had met, four Afghanistan batsmen managed good starts but could not capitalise. Building an innings and reading the game and responding to it are nuances the major teams do better to quell the promise of the Associates.
Another foreboding gleaning from that game was their struggle against spin. Saeed Ajmal proved his trickery does not require a friendly pitch in the Asia Cup opener and, though, he is yet to open his tally against Afghanistan, one feels from his performance, it is only a matter of time.
Pakistan's pressing concern would be in ridding the inadequacies of their batting order. Most of the top-order batsmen seem content with eye-catching cameos. Shahid Afridi continues to play with disastrous abandon. Umar Akmal justified his potential for 71 balls until he played a horror of a shot to allow Sri Lanka to sneak into the game. The best motivator against such mistakes, however, might be that they would draw a greater scrutiny against a lesser opposition.
Form guide(last five matches, most recent first)
In the spotlightAfghanistan will look to Nawroz Mangal to deliver stability to their batting. He has been undefeated all four times he has crossed fifty and all of them have been match-winning efforts. He has scored one of the seven one-day hundreds made by Afghanistan batsmen.
Ahmed Shehzad's tendency to begin slowly has attracted some criticism but he possesses such good timing that hiking the pace of his innings would not be too much bother. If he could tick the score along with a few more regular singles, Pakistan's top-order batting could well regain their menace.
Team newsPakistan cannot afford to suffer a second defeat in a row and might enlist the services of Anwar Ali, an effective all-round talent who has already had experience reversing a batting collapse.
Pakistan (probable) 1 Sharjeel Khan, 2 Ahmed Shehzad, 3 Mohammad Hafeez, 4 Sohaib Maqsood, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt.), 6 Umar Akmal (wk), 7 Shahid Afridi, 8 Bilawal Bhatti/Anwar Ali, 9 Umar Gul, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Junaid Khan.
Afghanistan preferred to employ horses for courses and would pick their XI on the morning of the game.
Afghanistan (probable) 1 Mohammad Shahzad (wk), 2 Nawroz Mangal, 3 Asghat Stanikzai, 4 Mohammad Nabi, 5 Noor Ali Zadran, 6 Karim Sadiq, 7 Shapoor Zadran, 8 Hamid Hassan, 9 Samiullah Shenwari, 10 Rahmat Shah, 11 Hamza Hotak
Pitch and conditionsFatullah has offered very little signs of encouragement to the bowlers so far in the tournament and that trend is likely to continue. Dew might make a difference in the second half of the day as some appeared on Wednesday night.
Stats and trivia
- Mohammad Shahzad accounts for three of the seven ODI centuries by Afghanistan and holds the record with 118 against Canada.
- Misbah-ul-Haq has struck four fifties in the last seven matches, all of which Pakistan ended up losing
"There is no target. We will play good cricket and when the time comes we will win."
Mohammad Nabi is not fussed about his team making its Asia Cup debut
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo