World Twenty20 2014 March 15, 2014

Impressive Afghanistan face bigger expectations



Until the 2012 World T20, little was at stake for Afghanistan, but now, when they line up to play their third edition of the tournament, expectations have risen. Afghanistan have qualified for the 50-overs World Cup and completed an impressive Asia Cup in which they beat a Test-playing team for the first time. That team, Bangladesh, are their first opponents in their qualifying group. With this in mind, Afghanistan should consider themselves in with a real chance of getting into the business end of the tournament.

Afghanistan's captain Mohammad Nabi has hinted that the team is at its strongest playing Twenty20. This was quite clear even at the Asia Cup, where their batsmen often fell playing one big shot too many. That approach will better suit the T20 format, and Mohammad Shahzad, their exciting wicketkeeper-batsman, will enjoy this license at the top of the order. Either Nawroz Mangal or the newcomer Najeeb Tarakai will partner Shehzad, while the middle order might include the likes of Karim Sadiq and Shafiqullah, who didn't feature during the Asia Cup.

Their bowling is full of variety, and over recent months has gained a lot of discipline. Shapoor Zadran, the tall left-arm seamer, now bowls an impeccable line, while medium-pacer Mirwais Ashraf has shown himself to be very difficult to get away. In Hamza Hotak, Samiullah Shenwari and Nabi, Afghanistan possess some genuine spin options, with the left-armer Hotak capable of taking the new ball.

In the warm-up games, their performances were inconsistent. They shot out Netherlands for 86, but allowed Zimbabwe to chase down 168 with three balls to spare. It was a bit of a downer, but their batsmen had shown the ability to post daunting totals.

Key players

Samiullah Shenwari is the trump card of Afghanistan's batting line-up in the lower middle order and can be dangerous with his leg-spin. He was the third-highest wicket-taker in the World T20 Qualifier and one of only four players to claim a five-for in the tournament. He picked up as many as three Man-of-the-Match awards during the tournament, as well as the Player-of-the-Tournament award.

Surprise package

What Afghanistan need is an assured and brisk start from the top and the uncapped Najeeb Tarakai might just be the man for the job alongside Mohammad Shahzad.


Winning matches is an art and Afghanistan lack the finishing touch. On their day they can overwhelm any team in the world but they have shown the tendency to let important moments slip, as they showed against Pakistan during the Asia Cup. Their batting line-up, meanwhile, has the potential to self-destruct.

World T20 history

The story of Afghanistan's extraordinary rise is well known. They first qualified in 2010 and lost all their matches by a fair margin but bounced back to give India a bit of a scare in 2012. They might have failed to advance from the group stage in their last two campaigns but with every game they played, their improvement was evident. They earned a place in this year's edition after finishing runners-up at the qualifying event in the UAE, losing to Ireland by 68 runs in the final.

Recent form

Afghanistan are brimming with energy and confidence after beating Bangladesh in the Asia Cup. Having spent some time in Bangladesh as part of that event, and spent a month before that at a preparatory camp in Sri Lanka, they will be familiar with the conditions. In the warm-ups, Afghanistan beat Netherlands by 35 runs but lost their next game to Zimbabwe despite setting them a daunting target of 169.

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Shafin on March 16, 2014, 8:00 GMT

    @Shoresh Malang Babur: When BD whitewashed WI is WI back in 2009 both in Tests and ODI, it was labelled as BD beat a third string WI team. So when AFG beat BD in ASIA cup, where several key BD players are missing, I don't see you complaining anymore, rather saying a win is a win. If it was for the silly captaincy, AFG could not win that match. Lets find out today which is the better team.

  • Jay on March 16, 2014, 5:57 GMT

    @baktashhamid and syed nishet afg doing well in what? in divisional cricket not in international cricket. the division afg plays in is lesser competitive then any of the test playing country's domestic league accept zim. u have been living in a pond now in a ocean we will see how you react. best of luck

  • Dummy4 on March 16, 2014, 5:53 GMT

    @ Arafat Habib,is it only BD fans are making disrespectful words? your comment here has no sense at all. can you show me a proof that BD fans are more respectful here? check all the posts about the Afghan BD match, and then comment.

    We BD fans are more disrespected and can you show me any example where the host has to play for qualifying round?

    Enough, ICC had done to BD cricket team already. Today's match will give a right answer.

    Are you Bangladeshi? can you imagine how disgraceful it will be if BD will not got into the top 10? wont you feel sorry for it? do you really love our country ..i doubt...

  • ESPN on March 16, 2014, 0:48 GMT

    When will be secured for afghans insha Allah

  • Dummy4 on March 16, 2014, 0:13 GMT

    As a Bangladeshi it is very disappointing to see how insincerely most of the Bangladeshi fans react and comment. They quarrel with each and every other cricket nations' supporters, be it India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, West Indies, New Zealand, England, Zimbabwe, Ireland or Afghanistan. In most cases they are very much disrespectful to other countries' fans and players. Our cricket has grown over time, but these people haven't. They act like they are the supporter of a country who are playing cricket for two years at best.

  • Android on March 15, 2014, 22:21 GMT

    I think Afghanistan should easily trample the Bangla tigers. As an Indian i am gunning for Indian victory but my good wishes for the Afghans are not far behind.

  • Dummy4 on March 15, 2014, 17:56 GMT

    The interesting thing is that Bang and Afghanistan have been turned into real rivals just like Pakistan and India.... I can see that from the comments of the supporters and the speech of Bang,s captain saying that they will take revenge from Afg... I just want to say one thing to Bang fans that Afghans have been grown in war and that is why you can see that aggressive nature in them while playing which make them really dangerous ... so do not talk of taking revenge from such people.... they will vanish you ....

  • Azooz on March 15, 2014, 17:11 GMT

    @Meety u are a true diehard Afghan Oz fan ;-)

  • Dummy4 on March 15, 2014, 15:22 GMT

    Guys this is not about one or five players who did not play and bangladesh lost this is about who is playing in your national side. This shouldn't be an excuse that Tamim , shakib and other important player's were not playing each player . plays for national side they are chosen from millions so Please stop this childish excuses that our main player's were not playing.

    what will happen tomorrow if these plays get retired? then Bangladesh will not produce any other player or they will start losing games.

    Win is a win and lose is a lose the really man is someone to face it and avoid it for the next time . Guys be a really man and face it! Thank you

  • Shoaib on March 15, 2014, 13:37 GMT

    @Baktash: Bangladesh may still be a weak team but denying improvement is just showing plain ignorance. Got to stats on Cricinfo of Bangladesh and check all the players of Bangladesh from years 00-08 and compare these players stats to the likes of Shakib, Tamim, Rahim, Mominul, Nasir etc and there's a massive difference. Also in past usually Bangladesh games are heavily one-sided but now they are now competitive even though the team is still losing. Why did Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India take a lot of effort to beat Bangladesh in the recently concluded Asia Cup? exactly! usually these teams in past beats Bangladesh by 5 or more wickets with 10 overs to spare or by 50 plus runs but that wasn't the case in Asia Cup and that 2 without Tamim and Shakib and Mashrafe missing a few games :P

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