Hazratullah Zazai blitzkrieg ensures a series win for Afghanistan

Hazratullah Zazai blitzkrieg ensures a series win for Afghanistan

Hazratullah Zazai was the man of the moment as his sensational 62-ball 162 helped Afghanistan record the highest T20I total – 278 for 3 – in the second T20I against Ireland. 


Bogged down by the huge target that was led by Hazratullah Zazai, the Irish side lost the game by 84 runs and conceded the series as well. Though the ‘visitors’ started off on a high, the target was a little too much for the asking, as they eventually ended their innings on 194 or 6.

On a day of remarkable feats – Sri Lanka had earlier scripted history by becoming the first Asian Test team to win a series in South Africa – Zazai ensured that the statisticians were on overdrive as he struck the third fastest ton in the format. He hit a total of 16 sixes in his innings – yet another record – and set the second-highest T20I score after Aaron Finch’s 172. Things seemed to go in favor of the Afghanistan unit right from the very start as they won the toss and chose to bat first, and this decision was aptly proven right by an opening partnership of 236 runs in just 17.3 overs.

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The carnage by Zazai started in the third over itself as the Afghan batters took 15 runs off a Peter Chase over. The over gave the hosts the much-needed momentum and soon they had crossed 64 in the first six overs, with Zazai scoring 35 off 19 deliveries. He got his 50 six balls later and then decided to attack from thereon. He struck two sixes and a four off a Kevin O’Brien over and raced to 83 runs in just 35 deliveries. The 150-run stand was brought up in the 12th over itself and the pressure on the Irish side could be seen. Paul Stirling bowled three wides in a row and he was punished for the same, as Zazai struck three sixes in succession to get to his 100 in just 42 deliveries.

However, instead of stopping, he continued and soon Ghani got into the attack as well. He played a mature hand and held the innings together as his partner was teeing away every delivery that came his way. Ghani was ultimately dismissed in the 18th over, but the damage had been done by then.

With a huge target of 279 to chase down, Stirling came out all guns blazing and took the fight to the rivals. The Irish team managed to make more than 10 runs an over for the most part of the innings, but that too was not enough as they were left with 170 to chase in 60 deliveries.

The initial assault by the Irish team was a combined result of Stirling’s aggressive approach and Afghanistan’s ploy to hold back Rashid Khan. After Ireland had managed 69 in their first six overs, Rashid came into the attack to stall the momentum. He conceded just 6 in the first over and with Mujeeb Ur Rahman getting into the act as well, the writing was on the wall. The third T20I of the series is scheduled to be held on Sunday, and though Ireland are massively on the backfoot, they would hope to register a win and enter the ODIs with a bit of confidence.

Brief scores: Afghanistan 278/3 in 20 overs (Hazratullah Zazai 162*) beat Ireland 194/6 in 20 overs (Paul Stirling 91; Rashid Khan 4-25) by 84 runs.

Rashid Khan: Cricket has changed everything in Afghanistan in the last few years

Rashid Khan: Cricket has changed everything in Afghanistan in the last few years

Rashid Khan, Afghanistan’s wily spinner, said that cricket has ‘changed everything’ in his country and that nothing pleased the citizens of Afghanistan more than a good display by their cricket team in the last few years. 


Rashid, speaking on January 29, in an event that revealed the fixtures of the ICC T20 World Cup 2020, further said that the rise of the sport had given the people back home plenty to smile and rejoice about.

“It feels good. People back home, they love cricket,” he said in a panel interview at the launch. “It has changed everything in the country in the last five-six years. The young generation … everyone’s following cricket, they love it. It means a lot that Afghanistan is participating in the World Cup.

“(The fans) are loving it. They love the sport, they love cricket. (We players) just try and give 100% in each and every competition. Everywhere, we try our best to give something to the people back home. I know what is happening, so there is nothing else that can bring such a smile on their faces.

“We – me, (Mohammad) Nabi, Mujeeb (Ur Rehman) – we just try and give our best in each and every game. The World Cup will be good experience. Can’t wait for it.”

Afghanistan have come a long way since their first competitive appearance in 2010 and are currently the number 8 ranked ICC T20I team in the world. After a series of impressive showings in ODIs and the shortest format, the ICC awarded Afghanistan with the honour of Test status. The country played their first Test match in June against India in Bangalore last year.

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The nation has been pooled in Group 2 for the T20 World Cup, alongside India, England and South Africa and will begin their campaign in the event against a Qualifier at Perth.

The meteoric rise of Afghanistan in world cricket has been synonymous with the rise of Khan, with him heading the T20I bowler’s ranking and standing on second place in the ICC ODI bowler’s ranking. The fact that he is only 20 years of age and made his international debut only three years ago further signifies his importance and mettle to the side.

His consistent showings has ensured that Khan is in huge demand across T20 leagues all over the world. Though fame has been plenty, Khan misses time away from his family, which is the only side-effect that cricket has.

“They are just watching it, it doesn’t matter whatever the time is back home in Afghanistan,” he said. “Everyone gets together and watches in one room. It feels really good and special, having good support from the family. They just keep following me.

“When I was playing in the West Indies and the time difference was too much – matches were starting at 3 am in Afghanistan – my mom was waking up and watching my game and praying for me. That is really special for me.

“Before the game, she was calling me and telling me to not worry, ‘just go there and enjoy yourself. Our prayers and support is with you’. That gives you a lot of energy and motivation. It’s needed as a player.”

India’s chase in details against a dethroned yet enthusiastic Afghanistan

What was supposed to be a dead rubber, turned into a humdinger of a game as India and Afghanistan shared the spoils in their final Super 4 game of the Asia Cup in Dubai. MS Dhoni, featuring in his 200th ODI as the Indian captain, tied a match for the fifth time as captain. India has been involved in five Tied ODI matches in 20 years. MS Dhoni was the captain in all of them.

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MS Dhoni leads the team in his 200th ODI as the Indian captain

 

The Indian skipper for the night lost the toss to Afghanistan’s Asghar Afghan(Stanikzai). Apart from Sharma, India rested many other key players including Shikhar Dhawan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and Yuzvendra Chahal ahead of the final. India’s pace bowling duties were handed to youngsters Khaleel Ahmed, Deepak Chahar and Siddharth Kaul, and opener Shahzad tore into the young pace trio cruising to his 50 at a bristling pace, pushing the scoreboard singlehandedly.

Of the opening stand of 65, Shahzad scored 56 runs while his partner Javed Ahmadi could only score a meager 5 off 30 deliveries. The introduction of the spin duo of Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav brought smiles back into the Indian dressing room as they began dismantling the Afghan top and middle order, reducing them from 65/0 in the 13th over to 82/4 in the 16th. Gulbadin Naib forged a 50-run partnership with the swashbuckling Shahzad but perished off a Chahar delivery while on 15. That led to the advent of Mohammad Nabi, who played a stellar knock of 64 off 56 deliveries, carrying the responsibility of the big-hitting in the later stages after Shahzad departed in the 38th over with the scorecard reading 180/6. After Nabi’s departure, India did extremely well to peg Afghanistan back, conceding merely 9 runs off the final 3 overs, restricting Afghanistan to 252/8. 

Chasing 253 off their 50, India looked set on course for yet another comfortable victory in the Asia Cup with the new opening pair of KL Rahul and Ambati Rayudu firing on all cylinders, not making India miss their usual Sharma-Dhawan combo at the top of the order. The duo put on a stand of 110 within 18 overs, scoring twin half-centuries with ease. Rayudu’s 57 came off 49 deliveries (4x4s, 4x6s), while Rahul’s 60 was slightly less pacy, coming off 66 deliveries with 5 boundaries and a six. However, Rayudu’s dismissal in the 18th over brought forth a slew of wickets as the Afghan spinners tore into the Indian middle order, with Rashid Khan (2/41) and Mohammad Nabi (2/40) being the pick of the bowlers. Dinesh Karthik tried to hold the fort at one end, knocking the ball around en route to a sedate 66-ball 44, before being caught leg-before by Nabi, which was seen in replays to have been a dubious decision by the umpire. That left India at 207/6 at the end of the 40th over, with the required run rate in control, but Jadeja being the only recognized batsman left. Jadeja played very steadily so as to not give away his wicket, and with the overs whittling down, the contest began to get nail-biting. The pressure from the Afghan bowlers also ensured that the required rate creeped up, and with 3 overs remaining, India needed 17 with 3 wickets in hand and Jadeja and Kuldeep at the crease.

Captain Asghar Afghan then turned to Rashid Khan, his ace, to bowl the 48th and 50th overs. Rashid conceded merely 4 off the 48th further increasing the pressure. The penultimate over by Aftab Alam turned out to be eventful, witnessing 6 runs and the run-outs of Kuldeep and Kaul. That left Jadeja with 7 to win off Rashid’s last over with tail-ender Khaleel for company. However, the tension seemed all for naught when Jadeja hoiked the second ball over mid-wicket, for what looked like a score-levelling sixer, but was judged by the third umpire to be merely a boundary. A couple of singles off subsequent deliveries brought India’s score level at 252. However, off the fifth ball, needing merely one run to win, Jadeja- who had till they made a very sensible 25 – managed to hole out to Najibullah Zadran, the only man Asghar had left outside the 30-yard circle. Zadran came running in to catch Jadeja’s mistimed shot and kept running with the smile of a victor, smiles that were shared by the entire Afghan team. Result: Afghanistan tied the match with India.

Afghanistan fail to overcome another tense circumstance

Afghanistan featured in a nail-biting thriller of a match yet again in the Asia Cup, facing back to back defeats. After a neck-to-neck contest against Pakistan, Afghanistan was involved in a tenser competition against Bangladesh on September 23. Mustafizur Rahman defended seven runs in last over to show Afghanistan out of the Asia Cup contest. On the other hand, India induced another massive defeat onto Pakistan in order to secure a spot in the finals. 

India has met Pakistan on two occasions during this ongoing series and has emerged victorious in both. Leaving behind the slightest of dependency on the head-to-head domination of Pakistan over India in ODIs, the latter has only moved forward towards the path of turning the tables. The count is Pakistan 73-53 India in 129 One-Day International matches that they have played against each other. With the recent set of results involving these two teams, the Men in Blue is set to change the record into their favor in a few years. But given to the fact that these two teams won’t play a bilateral series any soon, the record is safe with Pakistan. India defeated their nemesis by 8 wickets(with 21 overs remaining) and by 9 wickets(with 63 balls remaining) in their first and second encounters respectively. 

 

 

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Bangladesh’s Mustafizur Rahman celebrates a wicket.

 

Coming back to Afghanistan, the loophole in their much-celebrated rise in international Cricket has been more apparent of late. This Asia Cup has been witness to only a couple of nail-biting thrillers so far. Afghanistan has featured in both, one against Pakistan and the latest against Bangladesh, and ended up on the losing side on both occasions. They’ve failed to emerge victorious in nervous situations, both while defending(v Pakistan) and chasing(v Bangladesh). Despite their massive growth over a little period of time, there’s a lot more to master and especially through experience. We have seen how Shoaib Malik’s experienced overpowered Afghanistan’s short-lived dominance in the previous match on Friday to bag it away. On Sunday, it was Afghanistan chasing down a target of 250 against Bangladesh. The match went into the last over with Afghanistan having to score eight runs off it. After scoring a couple of runs off the first ball of the last over, bowled by Mustafizur Rahman, Rashid Khan got dismissed in next delivery. The next we know, four runs are required off the last ball of the match and all Mustafizur conceded was a dot ball. Afghanistan’s dreams and their run in the contest was shattered thus. Mushfiqur Rahim, who reached 5000 ODI runs earlier during the match, celebrated the win with his quirky signature dance. 

 

Result

Bangladesh 249 for 7 (Mahmudullah 74, Kayes 72*, Alam 3-54) beat Afghanistan 246 for 7 (Shahidi 71, Shahzad 53, Mustafizur 2-44) by three runs

Shoaib Malik helps Pakistan win a thriller against Afghanistan

The first day of the Super Four stage of the Asia Cup belonged to India and Pakistan. While India thrashed Bangladesh with a seven-wicket victory, Pakistan dismantled a fully loaded undefeated Afghanistan. A 43-ball unbeaten 51 from Shoaib Malik ensured his team a victory in the last over. Malik, with 19 years of experience behind him, hit a six and four off back to back deliveries in the 50th over. Hence, Pakistan won their first game in the Super Group stage by 3 wickets with just three balls remaining.

Previously, before the start of the match, the closest to a thriller in this Asia cup was the game between India and Hong Kong. The minnows gave the jitters to the second best ODI team before the latter came back strong into the game to win by 26 runs. The real thriller of a show was the clash between Pakistan and Afghanistan wherein at a point Afghanistan had an edge over Pakistan. The latter started losing wickets after a point when they were at 154/1 while chasing a target of 258 set by Afghanistan. The well-equipped Pakistani bowling side could only manage to dismiss six Afghani batsmen but restricted them to a total of 257/6. Left-handed batsman Hasmatullah Shahidi produced an unbeaten 97 off 118 while Asghar Afghan had come up with a captain knock of 67 off 56 deliveries. 

Pakistan had lost their first wicket for zero runs, during the chase, in the last ball of the first over. Fakhar Zaman was declared out for LBW following his decision of not reviewing a certain inside edge. But they found their momentum in Imam-ul-Haq’s 80 off 104 and Babar Azam’s 94-ball 66. Afghanistan found their way back later into the game when they bagged the wickets of the two set Pakistani batsmen in the 34th and 36th over. The most celebrated Afghan bowler Rashid Khan playing his 50th ODI match has the most wickets for any bowler within that span. While skipper Sarfraz Ahmed, Asif Ali and Mohammad Nawaz fell cheaply, Shoaib Malik stood his ground and kept playing his shots. Afghanistan sent in their most expensive bowler for the night and also a wicketless Aftab Alam, as all other bowlers had their respective 10 overs exhausted. The first ball of the 50th over was a dot ball, but Pakistan could breathe their sigh if relief when the second ball was hit for a SIX followed by a boundary off the third. 

Malik used his experience of 19 years to finish the game for his team under an extremely tense situation. Looking at the numbers, he has played a little fewer matches(267: 294) and scored more runs(7024: 6273) and boundaries(681:615) than the rest of the ten batsmen in the playing XI combined. Quite naturally, he was adjudged as the Man of the Match for his match-winning 51*.

Afghanistan uphold their position by defeating Bangladesh

Afghanistan uphold their position by defeating Bangladesh

Afghanistan upheld their position in the international front and established their puissance by defeating Bangladesh, by 91 runs on Day 6 of the Asia Cup.

Afghanistan were the winner of the ICC World Cup Qualifiers which was held earlier this year. Only 10 teams have been allowed to participate in ICC World Cup 2019 and Afghanistan was one of the last two teams to qualify for the same. A few months from then, they’re now topping the table of a group which consisted Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. 

On September 17, Afghanistan had shown Sri Lanka their way out of the Asia Cup contest as they defeated them by 91 runs. Sri Lanka had lost both games, against Bangladesh and Afghanistan, and was out of the contest within day 3. Bangladesh and Afghanistan faced each other on September 20 and the latter just recreated Bangladesh’s subjugation of Sri Lanka from Day 1 of Asia Cup. 

When we look closely, both groups have had an eerie similarity between their respective results:

Group A 

Pakistan 120/2 defeat Hong Kong 116 by 8 wickets – September 16

India 285/7 defeat Hong Kong 259/8 by 26 runs – September 18

India 164/2 defeat Pakistan 162 by 8 wickets – September 19

Group B

Bangladesh 261 defeat Sri Lanka 124 by 137 runs – September 15

Afghanistan 249 defeat Sri Lanka 158 by 91 runs – September 17

Afghanistan 255/7 defeat Bangladesh 119 by 136 runs – September 20

Both Pakistan and Bangladesh have been put at the receiving end, by their respective group toppers, of what they’d instilled on the teams that were made to exit. 

Afghanistan’s most celebrated player Rashid Khan officially turned 20 on Thursday. The same day on which Afghanistan took on Bangladesh for one final intragroup clash. Both teams had fared brilliantly against Sri Lanka but Afghanistan thoroughly dominated Bangladesh. The birthday boy, Rashid Khan produced a perfect all-rounder performance to put his team on top. He scored a crisp 32-ball 57 which helped Afghanistan put up a total of  255/7. Besides that, he also bagged two crucial wickets of Mahmudullah and Shakib-al-Hasan and ended up with extraordinarily economical bowling figures of 9-3-13-2. He was also adjudged as the player of the match as Bangladesh could only manage a total of 119 during the chase.

With this match, the group stage of the Asia cup also came to an end. India and Pakistan from Group A and Bangladesh and Afghanistan from Group B have qualified to the next round. The Super Four round starts today with Pakistan taking on Afghanistan and India taking on it’s most recent and consistent adversary Bangladesh. Both matches start at 5.00 PM IST. Pakistan vs Afghanistan will be held at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi, while India vs Bangladesh match will take place at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. 

Afghanistan shatter Sri Lanka’s Asia Cup dreams

Sri Lanka got knocked out of the Asia Cup competition after two back to back defeats. Looking at their current form, the fans can only heave a sigh of relief that Sri Lanka did not have to play the World cup qualifiers. Group B has Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka incorporated in it. The latter was humbled by massive defeats by the other two teams in the recent turn of events. 

Results:

September 15 vs  Bangladesh, Dubai International Stadium- Bangladesh beat Sri Lanka by 137 runs.

September 17 vs Afghanistan, Sheikh Zayed Stadium – Afghnanistan beat Sri Lanka by 91 runs.

After Bangladesh enforced a huge defeat on Sri Lanka in the opening match of Asia Cup, it was Afghanistan who demolished them. Group B will have its last match on September 20 wherein Afghanistan and Bangladesh will play for the top spot. 

Afghanistan 249 (Rahmat 72, Ihsanullah 45, Thisara 5-55) beat Sri Lanka158 (Tharanga 36, Rashid 2-26, Naib 2-29) by 91 runs.

Thisara Perera’s five-for was outdone by a collective and timely contribution by the Afghanistan bowlers. The spinner trio exploited all the turn the pitch had to offer as usual. Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, and Mohammad Nabi and also right-arm seamer Gulbadin Naib took two wickets each. All four of these bowlers conceded less than four an over. No wonder they could defend their 249 and how gracefully! 

After Bangladesh’s comfortable victory with a margin of 137 runs over Sri Lanka, the probability of Afghanistan defeating the Lankans was not even considered as a potential upset.

Record- Last five ODI matches(Latest first)

Sri Lanka: L, W, W, L, L 
Afghanistan: W, L, W, W, W

The above record shows the latest performances of both teams before the clash between Sri Lanka and Afghanistan took place on Monday. Sri Lanka’s ODI performance in the last two years discerns how it’s been their worst format. Three days into the Asia Cup, the Lankans were knocked out of the competition. Although none of the Lankan bowlers produced a match-winning performance it was the batsmen who failed miserably. Sri Lanka’s batting was so weak across both matches that it’s fair to say that there’s not much that the bowlers could’ve done. Even in Thisara Perera’s five-wicket haul, three wickets were obtained in the last over of the innings. So the impact of it was the least possible and Angelo Matthews’ team returned home empty-handed. Afghanistan’s right-handed batsman Rahmat Shah was awarded the Man of the match for his 90-ball 72. Quite evidently, this year’s Asia Cup has been witness to low scoring games turning out into absolute success. Perhaps, the balance in bat-ball can be maintained throughout the entire tournament.

Asia Cup 2018: Afghanistan’s probable XI

Asia Cup 2018: Afghanistan’s probable XI

Afghanistan will be playing in their second Asia Cup when they take on Sri Lanka on September 17. The nation’s rise in world cricket is truly extraordinary and they enter the tournament as underdogs. Asghar Afghan will captain the side that recently won an ODI series against Ireland.

The squad includes:
Asghar Afghan (c), Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Ihsanullah Janat, Javed Ahmadi, Rahmat Shah, Hashmat Shahidi, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan, Najibullah Zadran, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Aftab Alam, Samiullah Shinwari, Munir Ahmad Kakar (wk), Sayed Ahmad Sherzad, Sharafudin Ashraf, Yamin Ahmadzai

The team boasts of a strong bowling unit that is capable of winning matches. Though their bowling has star cast, the batting has been a let down at times. Their batting can be the weak link that other teams will target.

This is what their probable XI might look like:

Openers: Mohammad Shahzad, Ihshanullah Janat

Mohammad Shahzad is the mainstay of the top order and their star batsman. He is capable of scoring the big runs while opening the innings with Ihshanullah. This opening combination seemed to work for them in Ireland and they will look to continue this pair.

Top and Middle order: Rahat Shah, Asghar Afghan, Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Munir Ahmad

The batting line up does not boast of stars. But, Mohammad Nabi and Asghar Afghan can be trusted to do the run scoring if the top order fails. Najibullah Zadran has a growing reputation as a finisher for the team. Though he is shifted in the line up to accommodate others, he performs best at no. 6. He has scored 5 of his 8 half centuries at no. 6.

Bowlers: Aftab Alam, Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman

Aftab Alam will lead the pace attack for the Afghans with Gulbadin Naib as the second seaming option. The spin duo of Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman are the most integral part of the side and are likely to do the heavy lifting for the team. Both of them finished as the joint highest wicket-takers (17 wickets) at the World Cup Qualifiers earlier this year. With the assistance of Mohammad Nabi’s off-break bowling, the spin attack of the team can trouble the opposition.

Asia Cup 2018: Schedule and the favourites to win the tournament

The six-team Asia Cup tournament will be held in UAE beginning on September 15. Arch-rivals India and Pakistan are placed in Group A along with Hong Kong, who won the Asia Cup Qualifiers on Thursday. Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan are put together in Group B. In the group stages, each team will play one match against the other two teams. Top two teams from each group will advance to the Super four stage. The top two finishers of the Super four will face each other for the trophy.

Here is the schedule of the tournament:

Date

Group

Teams

Venue

15 Sep B Bangladesh vs Sri Lanka Dubai
16 Sep A Pakistan vs Hong Kong Dubai
17 Sep B Sri Lanka vs Afghanistan Abu Dhabi
18 Sep A India vs Hong Kong Dubai
19 Sep A India vs Pakistan Dubai
20 Sep B Bangladesh vs Afghanistan Abu Dhabi
21 Sep Super 4 India vs Bangladesh Dubai
21 Sep Super 4 Pakistan vs Afghanistan Abu Dhabi
23 Sep Super 4 India vs Pakistan Dubai
23 Sep Super 4 Afghanistan vs Bangladesh Abu Dhabi
25 Sep Super 4 India vs Afghanistan Dubai
26 Sep Super 4 Pakistan vs Bangladesh Abu Dhabi
28 Sep Final Top two teams from Super 4 Dubai

Group A encounters

India enters the tournament as favorites even with Virat Kohli’s absence. India has a rather easy first match with Hong Kong on September 18 which will warm up the side for its next day match against Pakistan. India have won the ODI format of the tournament five times.

Despite their middle order woes, India is a strong team with a fiery bowling unit of pacers and spinners. Rohit Sharma, one of India’s best ODI batsmen, will look to continue his bolstering run making capabilities. Though India comes to the tournament after a Test series defeat against England, the number two ranked ODI side will look to win the ODI tournament for the sixth time.

Pakistan has won the tournament twice and will have the ‘home’ advantage in UAE. Pakistan will face India for the first time since last year’s Champions Trophy final in England which Pakistan won after securing a massive 180 run victory. Fakhar Zaman and Hasan Ali starred in that game with bat and ball respectively and might feel that confidence kick in when they take on India again on September 19.

In the group A, it is easy to pick the top two teams which will advance to the Super four – India and Pakistan, which means the subcontinent will see two intense matches. Both teams can also feature in the final if they win their respective Super four encounters. India and Pakistan have never faced each other in the tournament’s final.

Group B encounters

Sri Lanka, who has won the tournament five times, will be led by all-rounder Angelo Matthews. They have the advantage of Lasith Malinga’s inclusion in the squad who has three five-wicket hauls in the tournament – the most for any bowler. Though he has been amiss in the side for a long time, he will be ready to redeem his stature as one of Sri Lanka’s lethal bowlers.

Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will face serious competition from Afghanistan’s star spinners Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, and Mohammad Nabi. Afghanistan has slowly risen up the ranks to become a serious contender. They beat Bangladesh 3-0 in a T20I series in India earlier in the year. They also thrashed Ireland 2-1 in the recently concluded ODI series. Afghanistan does have the ability to pull off great upsets and are a team to watch out for.

Bangladesh enters the contest on a high of winning the ODI series 2-1 against West Indies. The Tigers led by Mushrafe Mortaza might lack the services of seasoned Shakib Al Hassan who is suffering from a finger injury. They don’t possess a star-studded batting line-up but can bank on Tamim Iqbal – their best batsman in the format. In Mustafizur Rehman and Mehedi Hassan, they can hope to get some firepower in their bowling line-up.

Looking at the squads, India and Pakistan stand out as favorites for the top prize this year.