Chance for Sri Lanka to seal final berth
March 3, 2014
1400 local (0800 GMT)
With wins against Pakistan and India, Sri Lanka have been the dominant side in the tournament and one more win will confirm their place in the final. But they would not want to slip up against Afghanistan, who surprised the hosts on Saturday with a 32-run win.
Watching Afghanistan's all-round display was perhaps the most refreshing sight of this Asia Cup. Mohammad Nabi leads a group of hungry cricketers who do not look out of place in ODI cricket. The performances of Samiullah Shenwari and Asghar Stanikzai in particular were eye-catching, as they completely changed the course of the match against Bangladesh. Shenwari and Stanikzai now hold the record for the highest sixth-wicket partnership among the Associates.
Shenwari is the more attacking of the pair, with a penchant for playing the cut and hitting straight, and his timing hit near perfection against Bangladesh. Stanikzai started off slowly, but has said that he has the confidence of increasing the strike-rate whenever he wants.
Afghanistan's bowling attack has good variety and the bowlers can be aggressive with the new ball. Shapoor Zadran, Dawlat Zadran and Hamid Hassan have been quite attacking with their lengths, but surprisingly, they have not been using the bouncers. Nabi, Shenwari and Hamza Hotak have been tidy with the spin too.
Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews would hope that the likes of Mahela Jayawardene and Dinesh Chandimal find some form. They also have the opportunity to experiment with their bowling attack, but will be wary of Afghanistan, who have shown they have the ability to surprise.
(Completed matches, most recent first)
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The all-round showing by Samiullah Shenwari has been very impressive. He bats freely and can go after any bowler. His legspin is also effective, particularly his ability to generate turn.
Sri Lanka are beginning to get the benefits of Kusal Perera, an opener who bats aggressively. He has given them rapid starts recently, and will be expected to do so once again.
Unless there are injuries, Afghanistan are not likely to change their playing XI.
Afghanistan (possible): 1 Mohammad Shahzad (wk), 2 Karim Sadiq, 3 Asghar Stanikzai, 4 Nawroz Mangal, 5 Mohammad Nabi (capt), 6 Samiullah Shenwari, 7 Najibullah Zadran, 8 Mirwais Ashraf, 9 Hamza Hotak, 10 Hamid Hassan/Dawlat Zadran, 11 Shapoor Zadran.
Sri Lanka could rest a few of their big who have been playing non-stop for a month and a half, which means Ashan Priyanjan, Dhammika Prasad and Suranga Lakmal could get a chance to play.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Kusal Perera, 2 Lahiru Thirimanne, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Dinesh Chandimal, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Chaturanga de Silva, 8 Thisara Perera, 9 Sachitra Senanayake, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Ajantha Mendis.
Pitch and conditions
The Mirpur wicket will remain batting friendly, and unlike Fatullah, the batsmen would want to go after the bowling early in the game as the wicket slows down with time.
Stats and trivia
"We will hopefully do well against Sri Lanka too."
Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi will be leading a team full of confidence on Monday.
"Afghanistan's bowling attack is very strong and they have an aggressive attitude. We are not taking them lightly."
Lahiru Thirimanne knows that Sri Lanka's work will be cut out for them.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here