Millennium Post

Afghan lionhearts look to score upset

They are one of international cricket’s most heartwarming stories but players from war-torn Afghanistan would be aiming for emphatic results rather than mere goodwill in their maiden World Cup appearance, which starts with a pool A match against Bangladesh here on Wednesday.

The Afghans have touched a chord with the cricket fans world over for the emotional enormity of their backstories but when they take the field on Wednesday, the focus would be on how much they have improved since qualifying for the big league.

Currently the top-ranked associate nation in the ICC rankings, Afghanistan open the campaign against Bangladesh, hailed as a South Asian fairytale not too long back before a dramatic slide began.

In fact, the two teams have already faced off once, last year in an Asia Cup match in March, and it was the sprightly Afghans who came out trumps, shocking their regional big brothers by 32 runs.
That result makes it a banana-skin contest for Bangladesh, a team which has been floundering after starting off its journey with massive upsets a few years ago.

Afghanistan coach Andy Moles has already stated that he is banking on wins against Bangladesh and Scotland in the group matches to spring a surprise.

“If we do the right things at the right time and stay calm, we are quite capable of giving Bangladesh a very very good game. We should like to think we could beat Scotland,” Moles has said.

“If we can manage to win those two games we’ve got to win one of the big games to get through to the next round. We are quite capable of pulling off that surprise,” he added.

Australia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and England are the other teams, which Afghanistan have to contend with in Pool A.

Bangladesh, on the other hand, have entered the World Cup in good spirits, having beaten Zimbabwe in a home series. But what remains a concern is the improvement in the side, if any, has been so slow that observers of the game have begun to question their ability to stay in top flight.

As for the team-sheets, Afghanistan’s batting would revolve around the experience of Nawroz Mangal along with Asghar Stanikzai, Samiullah Shenwari and Mohammad Nabi in the middle order.

Pacer Hamid Hassan would look to make the most of the supportive pitches in Australia and New Zealand in combination with Dawlat Zadran and tall left-arm seamer Shapoor Zadran. Bangladesh, on the other hand, are abundantly more experienced. Skipper Mashrafe Mortaza, with 144 ODIs spanning over 13 years in international cricket, will be the backbone of their batting along with Mushfiqur Rahim and Tamim Iqbal, all of whom have played more than 100 ODIs.

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