Nabi's men look to build on Asia Cup heroics – Afghanistan team preview
Mohammad Nabi (c), Najibullah Zadran, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Azmatullah Omarzai, Darwish Rasooli, Farid Ahmad Malik, Fazal Haq Farooqi, Hazratullah Zazai, Ibrahim Zadran, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Naveen ul Haq, Qais Ahmad, Rashid Khan, Salim Safi, Usman Ghani.
Standby Players: Afsar Zazai, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Rahmat Shah, Gulbadin Naib.
Best finish at the Tournament
Super 10 stage (2016)
The 2016 tournament in India was a memorable one for Afghanistan. They topped Group B in Round 1 after victories against Scotland, Hong Kong, and Zimbabwe, qualifying for the Super 10.
Though they failed to make it to the semis, there was a stunning victory against eventual champions West Indies in Group 1 to signal that Afghanistan had well and truly arrived on the big stage.
Results in the last 10 T20I games
(most recent first): L L L W W L W W L L
v England (October 22), Perth Stadium, Perth
v New Zealand (October 26), MCG, Melbourne
v Group B Runner Up, (October 28), MCG, Melbourne
v Group A Winner, (November 1), The Gabba, Brisbane
v Australia, (November 4), Adelaide Oval, Adelaide
v England (October 22) - If Afghanistan are to make a dent in the Super 12, a positive start will be of paramount importance. They have tough fixtures coming up against New Zealand and Australia after the big opener against England.
If Mohammad Nabi's men could make a flying start by getting a big victory against one of the pre-tournament favourites, they would get some much-needed breathing room with tough fixtures coming in thick and fast. Getting the points on the board would also be a big psychological boost.
With some dangerous batters and world-class spinners at their disposal, Afghanistan will certainly relish their chances of making an early statement at the start of their campaign.
Rashid Khan - After all these years, Rashid Khan still remains the premier spinner in international T20 cricket. He has cultivated such a fierce reputation that batters seldom take a risk when he is bowling from one end, embracing a defensive mindset of not giving their wicket away.
The leg-spinner though has all the tricks in the book, which is highlighted in the exceptional record he has in the format. The ace tweaker has picked up 118 international wickets in only 71 matches.
Though pitches in Australia may not offer him much assistance, Rashid's vast experience of playing in the Big Bash League will stand him in good stead and his quality will ensure that the nature of the pitch is out of the equation.
Afghanistan's vast improvement was clearly visible during their deep run into the Asia Cup in UAE. The side made it into the Super Four stage after a dominant showing in the group stage, all the while playing a fierce brand of cricket. Big victories against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will give them confidence that they can now beat the best sides, while they also lost against Pakistan by the finest of margins.
Afghanistan will again have to go hard and play fearless in order to make it out of a tough group. The challenges will be tough with massive clashes against England, New Zealand and Australia lined up. The winners of Group A from Round 1 and runners-up from Group B will also undoubtedly pose a big threat.
But they will be bolstered by the fact that many of their key campaigners have accumulated invaluable experience at the biggest stage. Najibullah Zadran, Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Hazratullah Zazai are a devastating trio with the bat. The batting has been further enhanced by the promise shown by young Ibrahim Zadran.
Nabi and Rashid are two quality all-rounders who can do damage with both and ball. Along with providing some late-order hitting, the duo will also be expected to lead the bowling attack with their canny tricks. They will be backed by Mujeeb Ur Rahman, completing a highly dangerous spin trio.
The emergence of pacers Fazal Haq Farooqi and Farid Ahmad Malik also gives them a bite in the fast bowling department, which they previously lacked.
Overall, head coach Jonathan Trott has all the ingredients at his disposal of forging a highly dangerous side, which none of the other heavyweights in the group can afford to take lightly and drop their guard against. But to have a sniff at qualifying for the semis, nothing less than an electric start and headline-grabbing victories against England and New Zealand would do for the men from Asia.
OWN THE GAME
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