Aftab Alam is swinging his bat as hard as he can, missing the ball, and then punching the bat with his glove in frustration. Aftab is a whole-hearted cricketer™; he throws himself through the crease charges around the field and throws his bat.

For Aftab's first ball this World Cup, he wore the Hamid Hassan headband and hurried through the crease, taking the leading edge of Martin Guptill's bat and finding gully. It was a great moment and showed the incredible talent that Afghanistan has available to them. But it was also one of the few moments they had in the game where they weren't outplayed.

In their three games this tournament they've been in an epic arm wrestle with South Africa for the most shambolic side. South Africa have been getting the bigger headlines, but Afghanistan have been unlucky and terrible.

Their wicketkeeper and opening batsman Mohammad Shahzad has now been sent home. The hole he leaves in the XI is quite something: to replace him Afghanistan had to draft in two players, an opener and a keeper. And Shahzad is one of the few real batsmen Afghanistan has.

Because of the changes, Mujeeb-ur-Rahman was left out. Mujeeb's form has been horrible, in 7.5 overs this World Cup he's taken one wicket for 64 runs. He's a young player with worrying recent form; he may not be risked this tournament again.

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Mujeeb is supposed to be part of Afghanistan's killer spin team; against New Zealand, only Mohammad Nabi bowled, with Rashid Khan kept off the field after being struck when batting. Rashid was facing Lockie Ferguson when he seemed to misjudge the length - or flat out lose the ball - and just ducked. The ball ended up crashing into his grill, making a sickening sound, and rebounding off his helmet on to the stumps. The knock meant that Rashid felt ill and was not bowled through precaution. Afghanistan will hope he recovers in time for their game next Saturday against South Africa.

Then there are the pitches they have played on. Afghanistan are looking for flat pitches for their hitters to swing through the line or turning tracks for their spinners to use. They were always hoping that as the pitches got used more they would be a better team. But the last two pitches they have played on were green. Of course, the one pitch that could have suited them was at Bristol for their opener versus Australia. All they had to do was put Australia in and let their spinners do their best. Instead, they made a low total, and their spinners had no pressure to work with.

They've also made their own mistakes in selection. At Cardiff, it was clear the pitch needed a third frontline seamer; Sri Lanka had four. But they picked Mujeeb, and their two main seamers started poorly, and the game was gone that quick. For this game they claim to have rested Dawlat Zadran, though it's fairly clear he's injured.

Their batting is poor. Their batsmen are dour blockers or wild swingers. The first lot play a bunch of dot balls, the second lot make cameo 30-odds. "We did some bad shots, and we didn't play 50 overs," Gulbadin Naib, Afghanistan's captain, said after defeat to New Zealand. "Shot selection is not good".

The fielding features many overthrows; their fielders seem in the wrong portions and there are a lot of dives that seem token. That is not including the many simple misfields along the way. Not to mention Shahzad's keeping in the first two games, which was a 50/50 shot.

There is also Naib, who tries very hard but doesn't seem to have authority out on the field. He has made terrible mistakes, like at the toss against Australia, not trying Rashid Khan when Sri Lanka got away to a flier at Cardiff and then against New Zealand, when he went to the DRS off his own bowling, unsuccessfully, without conferring with anyone.

Yet, in this tournament that have shown glimpses of why they are so dangerous.

In the first match, their sixth-wicket partnership of 83 shook Australia for a while. They made Sri Lanka lose 9 for 57. And they were 66 for 0 against New Zealand, on a green pitch against a quality attack. But they lost two wickets in the same over to negate the stand against Australia, they allowed Sri Lankan to make it to 144 for 1 easily before the collapse came, and here they lost three wickets on 66.

Naib was upbeat. "Good start of the batting, and our bowling started well, but these are small things, we need to put a good total on the board, the morale is still high," he said. "We need one good match." He is right, there has been good, but there has been much more bad. They play like a team that for most of the last decade has won on talent alone, and they don't make enough competent cricket decisions.

It might only be Aftab punching his bat, but a lot of this team look frustrated right now. They know they are better than this and know they haven't shown it.

Jarrod Kimber is a writer for ESPNcricinfo. @ajarrodkimber