Afghanistan will play their maiden Test against India starting from 14th June. However, that is still a couple of weeks away. They will start their season with a three-match Twenty20 Internationals (T20I) series against Bangladesh in Dehradun.
Interestingly, it has been a sensational past 12 months for Afghanistan. They have gone from strength to strength and have established themselves as a force especially in the shortest format of the game. They were awarded Test status in June, 2017.
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Afghanistan has been in some good form especially in the limited-overs fold. They recently won the 2018 ICC Qualifiers and booked a place in the 50-over World Cup next year.
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Afghanistan defeated the mighty Caribbeans in the mega final of the tournament to seal their spot in the World Cup quite comprehensively.
Meanwhile, they will start their season in their adopted home – Dehradun.
The two sides have met each other only once in this format. It was during the ICC World Twenty20 in 2014. Bangladesh won that match quite convincingly by nine wickets.
However, given the recent run of form, Afghanistan will start as favourites. Bangladesh is currently ranked lower than Afghanistan in the points table.
But, their ranking can be misleading at times as they have some world-class players in their ranks.
Afghanistan too has a very strong team. Leg-spinning sensation Rashid Khan, easily the best bowler in the shortest format will look to continue his rich vein of form.
On his day, Rashid has the ability to run through any top batting order. His combination with Mujeeb Ur Rahman will be a huge positive for Afghanistan.
However, it is still unsure whether Mujeeb will take part in the series opener. He is yet to recover fully from the wrist injury which he suffered during the Indian Premier League (IPL). The injury had ruled him out from the latter part of the tournament.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh will be relying heavily on skipper and experienced player Shakib Al Hasan. He is the only player from the squad who has some T20 cricket behind him.
Shakib was an integral part of the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) squad in the recently held IPL. His contributions took them to the final of the tournament before bowing out quite meekly against the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the grand finale.
They narrowly lost the 2018 Nidahas Trophy final as Dinesh Karthik slammed a last-ball six to crush the hopes of Bangladesh.
Both teams have some real world class players in their ranks and the series might well turn out to be an exciting one.
For Bangladesh, Tamim Iqbal’s performance will be vital while Mahmudullah will resume his duties of finishing off games.
Bangladesh- Tamim Iqbal, Liton Das, Mushfiqur Rahim(w), Shakib Al Hasan(c), Mahmudullah, Sabbir Rahman, Mosaddek Hossain, Mehidy Hasan, Abu Hider Rony, Rubel Hossain, Nazmul Islam, Soumya Sarkar, Ariful Haque, Abu Jayed, Abul Hasan
Afghanistan- Mohammad Shahzad(w), Asghar Stanikzai(c), Najeeb Tarakai, Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Shafiqullah Shafiq, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan, Aftab Alam, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Usman Ghani, Samiullah Shenwari, Darwish Rasooli, Karim Janat, Shapoor Zadran, Hazratullah Zazai
Stats and Trivia: T20I
Mohammad Nabi is just 39 runs away to reach a 1,000-run milestone in the shortest format of the game while Asghar Stanikzai is still 93 runs away from reaching the landmark
Concluding, Rashid needs three more wickets to become the second Afghan bowler to bag 50 wickets or more in the shortest format.