Reputations at stake for Afghanistan, Hong Kong
Match factsMarch 18, 2014
Start time 1530 local (0930 GMT)
Big pictureThe build-up was all about creating heroes but, after illusion-shattering defeats in their opening games, Afghanistan and Hong Kong must get back to the more prosaic business of preserving reputations and dignity. Neither is yet out of the competition but the fates would have to be remarkably capricious for one of them to top the group from here.
Afghanistan's warrior mentality has given them an edge in their bull run through the Associate game but that combustibility is becoming a weakness at the highest level, where temperament and technique are more closely scrutinised. Only once have they not been heavily beaten at the World T20 and four innings out of five have disintegrated before lasting 20 overs.
Their confrontational approach against Bangladesh - expressed most clearly in the moment of handbags between Dawlat Zadran and Shakib Al Hasan - backfired fairly spectacularly but they should not need to get quite so worked up for Hong Kong, a team they beat comfortably in the semi-final of last year's Asian Cricket Council T20 Cup. After the disappointment of Sunday, the prospect of a first World T20 win will perhaps lift the mood.
Hong Kong came to the tournament with little to lose but the importance of needing to acquit themselves, rather than just turn up, was etched on to Jamie Atkinson's face after defeat to Nepal. Atkinson, the captain, had talked up Hong Kong's chances after rattling Zimbabwe and Netherlands during the warm-ups. But their nerves were jangled under floodlights at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium as Nepal got the better of his young side.
They can certainly play better with the bat and their attack may tease more mistakes from a gung-ho Afghanistan. Defeat will end their participation but they will be aiming to leave the World Cup wanting more, not less.
Watch out forAt the last World T20, Gulbadin Naib smashed five fours and three sixes in a 32-ball 44 against England coming in at No. 8. Promoted to bat at first drop in Afghanistan's opening match here, he walked out to face the second ball of the tournament and ended up as the innings' top-scorer. His swashbuckling approach is always entertaining but, as with most of his team-mates, a little composure would not go amiss.
Allrounder Irfan Ahmed, Pakistan-born but who came through Hong Kong's age-group cricket, bowled with impressive discipline and control in the middle of the innings against Nepal before his figures were dented in the later stages. His night continued to go downhill when he made a golden duck opening the batting. He has a T20 hundred to his name and may prefer to face Afghanistan's quicks.
Team newsAfghanistan should enjoy the pitch in Chittagong more, having been somewhat bewildered by the amount of turn on offer for Bangladesh's spinners in Dhaka. Seamer Mirwais Ashraf could replace Aftab Alam and Najibullah Zadran may be preferred to Najeeb Tarakai, the opener who made his debut in the previous match.
Afghanistan 1 Mohammad Shahzad (wk), 2 Karim Sadiq, 3 Gulbadin Naib, 4 Nawroz Mangal, 5 Mohammad Nabi (capt), 6 Najibullah Zadran, 7 Shafiqullah, 8 Samiullah Shenwari, 9 Mirwais Ashraf, 10 Dawlat Zadran, 11 Shapoor Zadran
The main challenge for Hong Kong will be raising spirits. They have a full squad to pick from and will have to assess whose scars have healed best. The most likely change is to strengthen the batting by bringing in the veteran Munir Dar (who is currently banned from bowling) for Aizaz Khan.
Hong Kong 1 Irfan Ahmed, 2 Waqas Barkat, 3 Jamie Atkinson (capt & wk), 4 Babar Hayat, 5 Mark Chapma, 6 Nizakat Khan, 7 Munir Dar, 8 Tanwir Afzal, 9 Najeeb Amar, 10 Haseeb Amjad, 11 Nadeem Ahmed
Stats and trivia
- Hong Kong will be playing just their second T20 international, to Afghanistan's 24th.
- Samiullah Shenwari needs one wicket to overtake Hamid Hassan as his country's most successful bowler in T20Is.
Quotes"We will try our best to win both games with a good [run rate]. If Bangladesh lose one game, we might come back."
Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi concedes his team need a favour from elsewhere to reach the Super 10 stage.
"I say to the players all the time that you've got to soak everything up. It's not every day you get to play in a World T20 and play on such a big stage in front of cameras."
Hong Kong coach Charlie Burke wants his players to play without fear in their second game
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here