Having tamed the Bangla tigers at home, the buoyant Afghans seek to collar the Sri Lankan ‘Lions’, a more formidable rival, in their third match of the Asia Cup here on Monday.
This is only Afghanistan’s fourth ODI against a Test-playing nation and they have already left a huge impression with their fearless approach. They had their moments against Pakistan, but unfortunately they made silly lapses and paid the price.
But against Bangladesh, they showed they have learnt their lessons from the mistakes. They not only justified their readiness to compete at the big stage but also proved that they rightfully belonged there.
Now, they seek to get the better of two Asian giants, Sri Lanka first and India next. “Our main target here is to win. Hopefully, we can beat one or two more full members,” averred batsman Asghar Stanikzai, the man of the match against Bangladesh.
The historic win, he hopes, will give a huge impetus to Afghanistan cricket. “With this victory, cricket will grow even more and so will the (public) interest. We are trying our best to put up a positive case for cricket back home and we have achieved a lot in such a short time. This will bring a lot of happiness back home. Everyone will be celebrating,” he said.
And they like to celebrate their moments with their traditional “Attan” dance. But even as they seek more such occasions to rejoice, they will have to play out of their skins to better the Lankans, table-toppers and the only unbeaten side of the tournament. They have to be relentless and intense.
For, Sri Lanka’s batting has clicked as much as their bowling. Apart from the seasoned Mahela Jayawardene, the rest have been in good touch. Kumar Sangakkara, especially, has been in sumptuous form. His will be their most prized wicket. Openers Kusal Perera and Lahiru Thirimanne, too, have given them steady starts.
Hence, Afghanistan’s bowlers have their task cut out. Much hinges on their pace trio Shapoor Zadran, Dawlat Zadran and Hamid Hassan. Against Bangladesh, they bowled fast and aggressive.
Mirwais Ashraf, meanwhile, has shown the virtues of wicket-to-wicket bowling. Hopefully, their spinners—Samiullah Shenwari and Mohammad Nabi—would give them ample support.
The plight of their batsmen won’t be any different. It will be interesting to see how they handle the unorthodox pacer Lasith Malinga and spinners Ajantha Mendis and Sachithra Senanayake. Their technique as well as temperament will be tested. That said, Sri Lanka can’t underestimate their plucky opponents.