Afghanistan cricketer Shapoor Zadran (R) celebrates with his teammates after he dismissed Gautam Gambhir during the ICC Twenty20 Cricket World Cup match between India and Afghanistan at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. AFP/Lakruwan Wanniarachchi
It will be a David versus Goliath battle at the R Premadasa Stadium on Friday when defending champions England launch their World Twenty20 campaign against Afghanistan, who displayed enough fighting abilities in their opening fixture against India.
The minnows would surely be heartbroken following their 23-run defeat to India, but they can take heart from the fact that the former champions were made to toil hard.
The presence of Afghanistan in the island nation means they are one of the 12 best T20 teams in the world. From fleeing their war-torn homeland, to staying in makeshift refugee camps and earning ODI status -- the Afghan cricketers have indeed come a long way.
“We have learned a lot. This is a learning phase for us. From facing India and South Africa in the last World T20 to playing international matches against Australia and Pakistan, we have come a long way,” said Afghan captain Nawroz Mangal.
On a high
On the other hand, England, looking to become the only team in the short history of T20 to have successfully defended the crown, will be on a high after beating Australia and Pakistan, in their warm-up ties.
The English batsmen would however do well to pull up their socks if they are to fancy their chances of making the Super Eights as against Pakistan, they were shot out for a paltry 111 after opting to bat. They made up for the batting failure by restricting Pakistan to 96 for nine on a bowler-friendly pitch on Wednesday.
The Stuart Broad-led side would want its batsman to come good against the Afghans. A win will ensure a Super Eights berth for them even before they take on India in their second and final group league match.