Afghanistan out to impress in four-day format
Afghanistan's remarkable success in the ICC World Cup Qualifiers, where they qualified for the Super Eights, will give them plenty of confidence as they take on a Zimbabwe XI in their first Intercontinental Cup fixture in Mutare.
However, they are up for a stiff challenge for Zimbabwe are led by the hugely impressive Tatenda Taibu, who had also formerly captained the senior team, and include players who've had far greater exposure to international cricket.
It will be interesting to see how Afghanistan make the transition from their experience in the limited-overs format to the four-day game. As a result of their hugely impressive performance in the World Cup Qualifiers, Afghanistan have earned ODI status for four years, qualified for this tournament, have been promoted to Division One of the World Cricket League and won funding grants from the ICC. Their success has undoubtedly given them great recognition - they were in fact the most closely followed side in the Qualifiers - but the team would now want to take a step ahead and makes its mark in the longer version. The visitors will bank heavily on the leadership of their captain Nowroz Mangal along with Hamid Hassan, Karim Khan and batsman Mohammad Nabi, who has played for the MCC and is among the few players in the squad with first-class experience.
In accordance with the recommendations of the ICC's task force, Zimbabwe have sent an A team to the competition. Taibu's experience is a huge asset for the side that includes full internationals like Chris Mpofu, Timycen Maruma, Regis Chakabva and Forster Mutizwa. For their experience, Afghanistan's extremely limited exposure to first-class cricket and home advantage, Zimbabwe will start favourites.
Zimbabwe XI (squad): Tatenda Taibu (captain), Timycen Maruma, Forster Mutizwa, Admire Manyumwa, Chris Mpofu, Natsai Mushangwe, Friday Kasteni, Bothwell Chapungu, Tendai Chisoro, Cephas Zhuwawo, Regis Chakabva, Shingirai Masakadza, Trevor Garwe, Tafadzwa Kamungozi, Mbekezeli Mabuza.
Afghanistan (squad): Nowroz Mangal (captain), Khaliq Dad, Karim Khan, Mohammad Nabi, Mirwais Ashraf, Raees Ahmadzai, Dawlat Ahmadzai, Mohammad Shehzad, Hamid Hassan, Samiullah Shenwari, Ahmad Shah, Noor Ali, Asghar Stanikzai, Shapoor Zadran.