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Tight schedule could force Afghanistan, Bangladesh to rest players for dead-rubber clash

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Should Afghanistan and Bangladesh rest key players? (2:19)

The Match Day team debate the merits of resting players, against playing your best team throughout the Asia Cup (2:19)

Big Picture

Having already qualified for the Super Four stage after knocking out Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan will play the last league fixture in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. The result of the match is truly inconsequential: no matter who finishes top of their respective groups, the tournament has been scheduled in such a manner that Bangladesh will face India in the first Super Four match on Friday, while Afghanistan will play Pakistan.

This means Afghanistan can stay put in Abu Dhabi after the match, while Bangladesh will need to pack their bags after the match and head to Dubai to meet India the next day.

Both teams could rest players, but the extra travel puts a greater strain on Bangladesh. They have some injury issues, so resting Shakib Al Hasan (finger) and Mushfiqur Rahim (rib) would make sense. It would also make sense for their captain Mashrafe Mortaza to rest on Thursday, instead of taking on the strain of back-to-back games for what is essentially a dead rubber. The likes of Abu Hider, Nazmul Islam and Ariful Haque will look to gain more exposure ahead of bigger challenges.

Afghanistan will focus on a familiar template: bat steadily for much of their 50 overs and look up to their seamers to provide support to their in-form spinners.

Rahmat Shah's 72 off 90 balls against Sri Lanka in the previous match backed up a solid start from the openers and allowed the big-hitters to go after the bowlers in the end overs. Captain Asghar Afghan, Mohammad Nabi and Najibullah Zadran, meanwhile, will look to make more substantial contributions with the bat, while Hashmatullah Shahidi, who made 37 against Sri Lanka, will hope to capitalise on such starts.

But the key will be the three spinners - Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Nabi. Bangladesh had a hard time against Rashid in the three T20Is in June this year. Can they find a way past him in the UAE?

It might be a dead rubber, but both teams will be keen to build momentum and confidence going in to the business end of the tournament.

Form guide

Afghanistan: WWLWW (last five completed games, most recent first)
Bangladesh: WWLWL

In the spotlight

Mohammad Mithun made a confident 63 against Sri Lanka and helped Mushfiqur push the total beyond 250. Mithun has plenty of domestic and A team experience, but can he be consistent in international cricket and secure his middle-order position?

Rahmat Shah, who top scored with 72 against Sri Lanka, has played the Dhaka Premier League, and will be a familiar opponent for most of the Bangladesh players.

Team news

If Afghanistan look to rotate their squad, wicketkeeper Mohammad Shahzad and seamers Aftab Alam and Guladin Naib might get a break. Munir Ahmed Kakar, Samiullah Shenwari, Sayed Shirzad and Wafadar are options to replace them.

Afghanistan (probable): 1 Mohammad Shahzad (wk), 2 Ihsanullah, 3 Rahmat Shah, 4 Asghar Afghan (capt), 5 Hashmatullah Shahidi, 6 Mohammad Nabi, 7 Najibullah Zadran, 8 Gulbadin Naib, 9 Rashid Khan, 10 Aftab Alam, 11 Mujeeb Ur Rahman

Nazmul Hossain Shanto could open for Bangladesh in place of the injured Tamim Iqbal while Mominul Haque, Abu Hider, Nazmul Islam and Ariful Haque could get some game-time in place of the seniors.

Bangladesh (probable): 1 Liton Das 2 Nazmul Hossain Shanto, 3 Shakib Al Hasan, 4 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 5 Mahmudullah, 6 Mosaddek Hossain, 7 Mohammad Mithun, 8 Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), 9 Mehidy Hasan Miraz, 10 Rubel Hossain, 11 Mustafizur Rahman

Pitch and conditions

Dew was either not present in Abu Dhabi, or had no effect judging from the evidence of Afghanistan spinners' total dominance over Sri Lanka.

Stats and Trivia

  • Mashrafe Mortaza is four wickets away from becoming the first Bangladeshi bowler to 250 ODI wickets. Overall, he will be the 17th fast bowler to the milestone.

  • Bangladesh have won three out of the five ODIs against Afghanistan.

  • Rahmat Shah is one match away from 50 ODIs. He will become the sixth Afghanistan player to the landmark after Mohammad Nabi, Mohammad Shahzad, Samiullah Shenwari, Dawlat Zadran and Asghar Afghan.

    Quotes

    "It is great to get off to a good start but what's more important is that middle period; if you lose wickets in that period, then it really does hurt."
    Bangladesh coach Steve Rhodes