Afghanistan v Pakistan, Asia Cup, Fatullah February 27, 2014

Afghanistan bowl with pace and promise

Karthik Krishnaswamy in Fatullah
Afghanistan's bowlers may have been fighting it out mainly at Associate level in the past, but for large periods on Thursday, Pakistan had no answer to their pace or accuracy

When you watch an Associate nation play a Test team, the first point of difference you usually notice between the sides is their seam attacks. The spearhead of the Associate team's attack, apart from the rare exception such as Boyd Rankin, is usually a medium-fast bowler: a Martin Suji or a Mudassar Bukhari, bowling in the low-to-mid 120s.

On Thursday against Pakistan, Afghanistan opened their bowling with Shapoor Zadran, a towering left-armer with a run-up so long it was a throwback to an earlier era, and Dawlat Zadran, a right-armer with an action redolent of Waqar Younis.

Dawlat was nearly as quick as Waqar too. He bowled at an average speed of 138.4kph, and his fastest ball clocked 145.3kph. Shapoor wasn't too far behind, averaging 134.2kph and hitting 142.4kph at his quickest. Hamid Hassan, who is part of their squad but didn't play this game, is reputed to bowl as fast as Dawlat, perhaps even faster.

Against Pakistan, Dawlat wasn't always on the money with his line and length but Shapoor mostly was. He seemed to know exactly how to bowl to Sharjeel Khan, a left-handed opener who loves width but gets into closed positions against balls directed into his body, and finds it difficult to tuck the ball away into the leg side. Afghanistan's team seemed to have sat down and done their homework on him. When Shapoor bowled to Sharjeel, one of their catching fielders was a leg gully.

How have Afghanistan managed to unearth so many fast-bowling talents, someone asked their coach Kabir Khan during the post-match press conference.

"We are culturally strong, well-built and tough," Kabir said. "They are aggressive. Kids back home want to be fast bowlers, not spinners. That's natural."

Hamza Hotak clearly wasn't one of those kids. His ESPNcricinfo profile says he compares his bowling style to Daniel Vettori's, and you would believe him if you saw his aggressive pivot at the bowling crease, after he came on in the tenth over of Pakistan's innings.

Out of that brisk action, the ball usually emerged with enough loop and inward drift to make batsmen think twice about where it would drop. Hotak bowled eight overs for 22 runs, and took the wicket of the left-handed Sharjeel Khan. It was a mow to deep midwicket, but the ball's trajectory contributed in some way towards making the batsman hit the ball straighter than intended.

From the 12th over of Pakistan's innings to the 22nd, Hotak bowled in tandem with Mirwais Ashraf, a medium-pacer in the Gavin Larsen mould. In those 11 overs, Pakistan scored 31 runs and lost two wickets.

Ashraf had a simple plan against Ahmed Shehzad and Mohammad Hafeez. Just back of a driving length, outside off, angling in, with the odd ball moving away off the seam. If you have a thing for accurate bowling, and if you're a geeky sort of cricket fan, gaze at Ashraf's beehive clusters against Shehzad and Hafeez. They are objects of beauty. Not a single ball on leg stump. Not one. He might have played most of his ODI cricket against fellow Associates, but Ashraf's career economy rate of 3.97 isn't to be baulked at.

After all those stifling overs from Hotak and Ashraf, Afghanistan brought on Samiullah Shenwari, their legspinner. Shenwari is never going to win an intra-team contest for the neatest-looking beehive cluster, and he bowled his share of long-hops and full-tosses to the Pakistan batsmen. But he also bowled some little gems. In his fifth over, he performed the classic legspinner's two-card trick: a ripping leg-break that spun across the face of Anwar Ali's bat, followed by a slightly shorter skidder that hurried Anwar into an ungainly defensive stroke.

Shenwari's two wickets in Afghanistan's first Asia Cup appearance may come to be overshadowed by the catch he dropped of Umar Akmal, which ultimately allowed Pakistan to get away to a match-winning total. The bowlers lost some sting after that, and Akmal's aggression rattled them enough for them to concede 59 in the last five overs. But that shouldn't take away from how they had given their opponents a real scare before that. There's definitely more to come from this attack.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Muhammad on February 28, 2014, 20:10 GMT

    Afghanistan's bowling is second or third best in the tournament. They at at par with if not better than Sri Lanka.

  • Dummy4 on February 28, 2014, 14:23 GMT

    In the name of Allah I think Afghanistan played well against such a great side for thier first time in asia cup but the Afghan team had some problems with thier fielding and middle order batting The reason of loosing the match was the droping catch of umar akmal on 28 while pakistan was 117-6 I myself liked the game and wish Afghan team for some great knocks in asia cup thanks ; muhib ullah niazay S

  • Cricinfouser on February 28, 2014, 13:51 GMT

    its Hard to fine good bowling unit, but afghanistan seems to already gain the culture of producing good seamers and swing art. but Hamid is the keyyy take out one such as Asraf bring Hamid in, but i do appriate Ashrafs innings in this match. But Hamid is they better of them all. along Dowlat, and Shapoor.

  • Dummy4 on February 28, 2014, 7:52 GMT

    We don't need to forget that this is this their first ever ODI competition against a team who played for more than sixty years. I am so thrilled with this article because they deserved to be praised for what they did. With having Hamid Hassan would make it more strong bowling side but I still don't know why Kabir Khan did not play the best bowler of Afghanistan? I agree with choudhary that we did not have finishing in both bowling and batting but Thanks to ICC for including us in this competition to make us show the world how big passion, love and determination we have for this game. We might exit as table bottom at the end but will win a lot of hearts and this is coming in next three more games. Come on Afghanistan

  • Abdul on February 28, 2014, 7:15 GMT

    Afghanistan team selection leaving lot to be desired. Hamid Hassan the greatest bowler ever not selected, cant understand what is going on.

  • Dummy4 on February 28, 2014, 6:57 GMT

    Great article. One thing I would disagree with is your opinion that Mirwais is in the Gavin Larsen mould. He is a lot slower than Hamid, Shapoor and Dawlat, but by no means a dibbly dobbly that Larsen was, who probably bowled in 100s and 110s kph.

  • Android on February 28, 2014, 5:36 GMT

    I don't see any reason why AFG can't be a top side if they get exposure to them.

  • Dummy4 on February 28, 2014, 5:06 GMT

    As an Afghan I am very very very disappointed they way our players played today we had the game at one point Pakistan was 117 / 6 and then magic happens and Shinwari one of our best bowler and fielders drops and easy catch which changed the game Pakistan should have been out of the game already unfortunately Shinwari gifted the game to them it is true they say Catches win Matches

  • Android on February 28, 2014, 2:27 GMT

    better bowling attack than indians for sure. lol. honestly really good.

  • Dummy4 on February 28, 2014, 1:57 GMT

    Well played matter if u was agood game and u showed that u are learning quickly.

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