Ahead of AFG vs SL Match, Here Are Reasons Why Afghanistan Is the Team to Watch Out for at ICC Cricket World Cup 2019
Afghanistan National Cricket Team (Photo Credits: Getty Images)

Is it possible for the Afghanistan cricket team to register victories over more experienced teams in the ongoing ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 tournament? In their opening match against Australia, they fought with much spirit but eventually lost the match by seven wickets. Ahead of their second against Sri Lanka, a side resolving transition issues might provide the Gulbadin Naib-led Afghans with a good opportunity to debut on the CWC19 points table.

Afghanistan team, once the ultimate underdog of Asia, has now emerged a side to look out for with star players like Rashid Khan, Mujeeb ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi. The trio have already made a big name in T20 league tournaments around the world. Afghan side has the capability to give nightmare to any International team and can spoil the party for Asian sides like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan in the upcoming World Cup 2019. In this article we will look at Afghanistan’s recent success, their star players to watch out for and the CWC 2019 fixtures that can potentially go their way. Team Afghanistan at ICC Cricket World Cup 2019: Squad, Player Profiles of Afghanistan National Cricket Team for CWC19.

Big Win against Pakistan

Afghanistan registered a major win against Pakistan, the 1992 World Cup winner during the significantly viewed World Cup warm-up match on Friday (May 24). All-rounder Mohammad Nabi took 3 crucial wickets of Fakhar Zaman and Haris Sohail and conceded only 46 runs in 10 overs. Rashid Khan departed Mohammad Hafeez and Pakistani Captain Sarfaraz Ahmed before they settle on pitch. The 20-year-old took 2 wickets by giving 27 runs in 9 overs with the economy of 3.00. Both Nabi and Rashid helped restrict Pakistan to a total of 262.

On the batting side, a major worry for Afghanistan after wicket-keeper batsman Mohammed Shehzad struggled with his hamstring and eventually walked off the field. Hazratullah, meanwhile, came up with a promising performance as his 28-ball 49, which included eight fours and two sixes. Hashmatullah Shahidi remains not out by making 74 runs in 102 balls after Imad Wasim dismiss two main middle-order batsmen Samiullah Shenwari (22/34), Asghar Afghan (7/9). ICC Cricket World Cup 2019: Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi and Other Key Players in the Afghanistan Team for CWC.

Afghanistan managed to win the World Cup qualifiers after beating renowned teams like West Indies and Zimbabwe in the qualifier match. Afghanistan beat West Indies by 7 wickets in 2018 Cricket World Cup Qualifier final, which was held in March in Zimbabwe and decided the final qualification for the ICC World Cup 2019, to be played in England and Wales.

In 2018 Asia Cup in Dubai, Afghanistan’s opening batsman Mohammad Shahzad scored 124 and all-rounder Mohammad Nabi scored 64 runs against India. They made a world record for the highest ever T20 score with their 278-3 against Ireland in Dehradun on 23 February, 2019.

The rise of the Afghanistan cricket team begins from 2018 when the team beat Sri Lanka by 91 runs and Bangladesh by 136 runs in Asia Cup 2018 ODI format. In June 2018, Afghanistan played their first Test match against India in Bengaluru although in a losing effort.

Strong Bowling Squad

Afghanistan Cricket Board removed Asghar Afghan as the captain across the three formats and made Gulbadin Naib ODI captain, Rashid Khan to lead T20 format and Rahmat Shah will take over in Tests.

Afghanistan’s 15-member squad for the upcoming World Cup 2019 includes right-arm pacer, Hamid Hassan. Hassan’s come-back as a senior fast bowler, which required on England and Wales fast peaches to boost the team’s bowling attack. Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb Ur Rahman, trio dismantle any team once they had a fighting total on the board and playing a big role in the team.

Rashid Khan: Rashid Khan, ranked 3rd in the ODI bowlers' rankings and number one in Twenty20 cricket, by taking 14 wickets. Leg-spinner can upset any of the team in ICC’s mega show. 20-years old all-rounder started his career at the age of eighteen in October 18, 2015 match against Zimbabwe in Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo, in which the team won by 58 runs, where Rashid bated at no 8, not out 8(10) and took 1 wicket by giving 30 runs in 10 overs with the economy of 3.00. In his match against Pakistan practice-game in ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 at County Ground, Bristol in England on Friday (May 24), he took 2 wickets by giving 27 runs in 9 overs.

Mohammad Nabi: Mohammad Nabi, who has played for Leicestershire Foxes and Sussex Sharks respectively in England's T20 Blast is a key player for Afghanistan in World Cup. The 34-year-old batting all-rounder, made his debut in Afghanistan vs Scotland, 5th place play-off match in Willowmoore Park, Benoni, where he made 58 runs of 64 balls with help of 3 fours and 3 sixes with strike rate of 90.63. 34-year-old, took 3 main wickets of Fakhar Zaman and Haris Sohail by giving only 46 runs in 10 overs with the economy of 4.60 in World Cup warm-up match against Pakistan at County Ground, Bristol in England on Friday (May 24).

Mujeeb Ur Rahman: Mujeeb Ur Rahman played a vital role in thrashing Bangladesh 3-1 and Asia Cup performance that included 20 wickets in 5 games, including game-changing performances in the semi-final and final. 18-years-old started his ODI career in December 05, 2017 in a match with Ireland at Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium, Sharjah in UAE. Afghan spinner took 4 wickets by giving just 24 runs in 10 overs with the economy of 2.40 in his debut game. Mujeeb also became a part of Afghanistan’s first-ever Test match against India in 2018. He will be looking to cause even more trouble for the rest team in 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup.

Afghanistan Batting

The focus in now on Afghanistan's batting heading into what is expected to be a high-scoring World Cup. Afghanistan highest ODI score is 338. In ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 Afghanistan failed to make it into top 10, but earned a place in ODI cricket format. Afghan needed time to experience the English conditions in a 50-over game. Rahmat Shah and Hashmatullah Shahidi had to shoulder that responsibility in this mega event in England.

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Afghanistan vs Sri Lanka

Afghanistan will play its 2nd World Cup match against Sri Lanka on June 4, 2019, at Cardiff in Wales. Here Afghanistan is looking stronger than its counterpart Sri Lanka after defeating Pakistan by 3 wickets in a first warm-up match of the CWC19. Comparatively, Afghanistan is much better than Sri Lanka after South Africa thrash the opposition in the second inning in a first warm-up match at Sophia Gardens, Cardiff in Wales. South Africa set a total of 338/7 in 50 overs. In which, the top scorer was Hashim Amla made 65 runs in 61 balls, Faf du Plessis made 88 in just 69 deliveries with a strike rate of 127.54.

In the second innings: Sri Lanka lost two wickets too early Kusal Perera, 1 wicket in the 2nd ball of a first over. Dimuth Karunaratne (c) and Kusal Mendis put together 62 to lead a recovery, followed by a 98-run stand between the skipper and Mathews. After few quick wicket Sri Lanka collapse as crashed to a heavy defeat - by 87 runs.

Afghanistan vs Bangladesh

Bangladesh vs Afghanistan will be one of the toughest matches to predict as both the teams are evenly matched but Bangladesh has experience of the English conditions, having played the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017 and other tournaments as well. Bangladesh’s highest ODI total up to date is 329 and Afghanistan highest ODI score is 338. Both the teams don’t have promising fast bowling options. Looking to the previous records it’s very rare where Bangladesh survive the first 5 overs without losing at least one wicket.

Bangladesh went through the tough start of this year in New Zealand where they lost to the host 3-0. In ICC World Cup 2019 Bangladesh will be going to play the first match against New Zealand on June 5, 2019, at The Oval, London. Fastballer Mashrafe Mortaza will be leading the team in the mega event while all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan will play a vice-captain role. Shakib wants to bat at No. 3 in the World Cup 2019.

Middle-order batsman Mosaddek Hossain will make a comeback in the 15-member squad for the upcoming World Cup. He last played for the team in Asia Cup 2018. Bangladesh Cricket Board has also named newbie pacer Abu Jayed in the squad for the upcoming event. Jayed will make his debut in Cricket World Cup 2019 after playing tests in New Zealand last month. Bangladesh will lock horns with Afghanistan on June 24, 2019, at The Rose Bowl, Southampton.

This time the World Cup tournament will be played in the Round Robin format where all teams will face against each other. The final of CWC 2019 will be played on July 14 at Lord’s, London.