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Brave and spirited Afghanistan out to ruffle a few feathers

With much talk revolving around ‘exciting brand of cricket’, it wouldn’t be inappropriate to give credit for the same to Afghanistan, as well. There are few teams in world cricket who play the game with as much gay abandon. Having won all their Group A matches to qualify for the Super 10s, they have carried good momentum with them. But the challenge will rise. Even if they can’t win any match from here on, they have the ability to put to display entertaining and exciting cricket.

ICYMI

Afghanistan have won all their three games of Group A convincingly to qualify for the Super 10s.

Five key points

Strengths: They have a good pace attack, a couple of handy slower bowlers and a few match-winners with the bat. If all the departments fire in sync, they can pose some serious threat to the bigger sides. More importantly, with no expectations and nothing to lose, their free-spirited cricket can upset some big plans. Watch out for the likes of Mohammad Shahzad, Asghar Stanikzai and Mohammad Nabi, to name a few, in their quest for giant-killing.

Weakness: For all the good cricket that the side has played over the last two-three years, they have failed to produce performers who could win matches single-handedly – either with bat or ball. As much as a team effort helps, a few star performances wouldn’t do them much harm in slaying some of the stronger sides in the tournament. Their shoddy fielding has also been one their biggest drawbacks and in a format like T20, it can prove quite costly.

Fearless cricket: All the thoughts of being an Associate nation or facing a side with a brimming trophy cabinet are left behind when this bunch set foot on the field. They’re fearless, and even in the face of champion cricketers, there is an ingrained quality to stand up to them and play some fearless cricket.

Nothing to lose: Even as they set sights on crashing other teams’ party in the Super 10, there will already be a feeling of contentment for Stanikzai’s boys, for having advanced through first round of the tournament. That they will have nothing to lose from hereon could play to their advantage.

Momentum: Having played three matches so far in the competition, they have a fair idea what to expect from the conditions. Afghanistan have also trained in India at the Greater Noida Cricket Ground before the start of the tournament. Familiarity of the Indian conditions and three back-to-back wins gives them momentum ahead of the tournament.

Spotlight’s on:

Mohammad Shehzad: With two 40s and a half-century in the three Group A matches, the belligerent wicketkeeper-batsman has played a crucial role in Afghanistan’s progression to the Super 10s. His form will hold the key for Afghanistan as they look to cause a few upsets.

Schedule:

March 17, Thursday: versus Sri Lanka, Eden Gardens, Kolkata
March 20, Sunday: versus South Africa, Wankhede Stadium, Mumbau
March 23, Wednesday: versus England, Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi
March 27, Sunday: versus West Indies, Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium, Nagpur

Bottom Line:

It will be a tough task to finish in the top two of the group. But they could spring a few surprises. With Sri Lanka struggling recently and several top players missing from the West Indian line-up, Afghanistan could offer them good competition. England and South Africa boast of strong sides on paper, but have been perennial under performers in World Cups. Even as they are unlikely to go beyond the Super 10s, they could spoil the party of some other team and have a big say in other teams’ fate.

Prediction: Super 10.

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