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India And Pakistan Should Be Wary Of Afghanistan Cricket Team At Asian Cup 2022

2022/11/23
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When you think about the Asia Cup traditionally, you think of three Asian superpowers in India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka with Bangladesh being the dark horses.

However, it seems like there is a new horse in Asian cricket that is ready to compete against anyone on their day. It was just 22 years ago when Afghanistan were not even an affiliate ICC member let alone a proper cricket team.

After 8 years of being unable to qualify for the Asia Cup, they made their tournament debut in 2014. Moreover, they made their World Cup debut in 2015.

India And Pakistan Should Be Wary Of Afghanistan Cricket Team At Asian Cup 2022

Even though they are unable to create a good ODI and Test Team so far, their unpredictable nature in the T20 format has definitely pleased the Afghanistan fans.

They came agonizingly close in the T20 World Cup game against Pakistan last year. However, Asif Ali's heroics ensured that the Greens remained unbeaten against their neighbors.

Even though they haven't won any of their T20 games against Pakistan and India respectively, they are much better equipped to pull off these upsets.

Afghanistan Cricket Team Lopsided Win Over Sri Lanka

India And Pakistan Should Be Wary Of Afghanistan Cricket Team At Asian Cup 2022

Afghanistan couldn't have started its Asia Cup 2022 campaign any better with a lopsided win over Sri Lanka.

Despite the problems Sri Lanka is facing as a nation, the fact that Mohammad Nabi's men were able to secure a convincing win was still a huge shock. After winning the toss and bowling first, Afghanistan restricted the five-time champions to just 105.

Fazalhaq Farooqi was the standout bowler for Nabi's men as he finished with figures of 3 wickets for 11 runs in four overs. Mujeeb ur Rahman and Nabi also made important bowling contributions by taking two wickets each.

If we can't talk enough about Afghanistan's bowlers, the batsmen matched them with some explosive batting. Hazratullah Zazai and Rahmanullah Gurbaz gave Nabi's men the ideal start in the run-chase.

The Afghanistan wicket-keeper smashed 40 off just 18 balls as the toppers of Group A finished the match with almost half of the overs to spare.

Afghanistan Cricket Team Comprehensive Win Over Bangladesh

Bangladesh came into this year's Asia Cup with a lot of problems. They had lost the T20 series to Zimbabwe before coming to the UAE for the continental cup. Moreover, they are still relying on veterans like Shakib Al Hasan to carry them in the T20s.

Despite the problems, they have reached three Asia Cup finals in the last four events, including the last two editions, and cannot be taken lightly.

For any big team to show their credentials, it is all about the way they perform after winning a big match. The smaller sides take their foot off the pedal and don't show the same quality in the next game.

However, Afghanistan showed that they are not a team to be taken lightly as they dismissed the three-time runner-ups by seven wickets and nine balls to spare.

Just like the Sri Lanka game, Afghanistan's bowlers shined once again as they restricted Bangladesh to just 127 runs in 20 overs. The spinners put on a show with Rashid Khan and Mujeeb picking three wickets each.

Despite some hiccups in the early part of the chase, Ibrahim Zadran and Najibullah Zadran created a match-winning partnership.

Ibrahim played the anchor innings by scoring 42 runs off 41 balls, whereas Najibullah was the aggressor as he smashed 43 off 17 balls. This partnership ensured that Nabi's men were home and dry by the second-last over.

Afghanistan Cricket Team Will Be The Next India And Pakistan

India And Pakistan Should Be Wary Of Afghanistan Cricket Team At Asian Cup 2022

So what has changed for Afghanistan in this year's Asia Cup compared to the previous years? It is that they have become a much better collective team rather than relying on individuals to sneak out victories.

In previous years, Afghanistan used to be a team that heavily relied on Khan in terms of containing the opposition. The leg-spinner was ranked the no.1 T20 bowler for a long time.

Even though his lights have dimmed in 2022, Afghanistan have improved as a collective unit in terms of both batting and bowling. They have fantastic combinations in the fast-bowling department, which takes away all the pressure from Khan.

The bowling coach Umar Gul has changed the fortunes of the Afghanistan bowling line-up, which already was a massive strength before he took the role.

The former Pakistani cricketer has paid special attention to the fast bowlers and their ability to make an impact against the top-order batsmen.

Even in the conditions of the Middle East where the fast-bowlers don't get much help, the likes of Farooqi and Naveen ul Haq don't seem to give any free runs away. You can only imagine what they are going to do on the fast Australian pitches.

Moreover, they have batsmen up in the order that is firing on all cylinders. By improving their team even further, the expectations have increased so much that experts from around the world have taken note.

After two wins in two games in the group stage, Afghanistan became the first team to qualify for Super 4 of this year's Asia Cup. Former Indian cricketer Ajay Jadeja has said that it won't be a surprise if Nabi's men get the better of Pakistan or India.

“Teams should be wary when they play these guys in Super 4s. When you play these guys in the Super 4, I won't be surprised if they knock one of the big teams off,” Jadeja remarked while speaking on Cricbuzz on Tuesday.

Despite their incredible winning momentum, Afghanistan have won both of their matches after bowling first. Traditionally, the matches are won in the UAE by the teams that are batting second.

Therefore, it remains to be seen how Nabi's men if their batsmen open the proceedings in the next games.

If India and Pakistan make it out of the group stage with Afghanistan already qualified from Group B, it is fair to say that the Asia Cup has just gotten more exciting.

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