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Afghanistan could not have asked for better circumstances to make their Asia Cup debut: a benign pitch to stymie Pakistan’s potent seam attack coupled with batsmen who fizzle out at all the wrong times. As much as Afghanistan hope to simply enjoy the occasion, the possibility of kicking off their campaign by downing a Test nation would be hard to ignore.
Profitable outings for six of the squad members in the Bangladesh domestic circuit will aid in assessing conditions. Mohammad Nabi, the captain, collected 223 runs in five Dhaka Premier Division matches. He knows he has the personnel to supply quick runs – Mohammad Shahzad is a firecracker in the top order – but it will be interesting to see if they can harness their natural instincts appropriately.
The only time these two teams had met, four Afghanistan batsmen managed good starts but could not capitalise. Building an innings and reading the game and responding to it are nuances the major teams do better to quell the promise of the Associates.
Another foreboding gleaning from that game was their struggle against spin. Saeed Ajmal proved his trickery does not require a friendly pitch in the Asia Cup opener and, though, he is yet to open his tally against Afghanistan, one feels from his performance, it is only a matter of time.
Pakistan’s pressing concern would be in ridding the inadequacies of their batting order. Most of the top-order batsmen seem content with eye-catching cameos.
Shahid Afridi continues to play with disastrous abandon. Umar Akmal justified his potential for 71 balls until he played a horror of a shot to allow Sri Lanka to sneak into the game. The best motivator against such mistakes, however, might be that they would draw a greater scrutiny against a lesser opposition.