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Afghanistan players revel in slick T20 show, eye on India Test

Afghanistan believe they are the best T20 side in the world after going 2-0 up in the three-match series against Bangladesh, a perfect warm-up for their historic first Test against India starting on June 14.

cricket Updated: Jun 06, 2018 22:38 IST
Shalini Gupta
Shalini Gupta
Hindustan Times, Dehradun
Afghanistan's Shapoor Zadran, center, celebrates after taking the first wicket of Bangladesh during the second T20 cricket match between Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
Afghanistan's Shapoor Zadran, center, celebrates after taking the first wicket of Bangladesh during the second T20 cricket match between Afghanistan and Bangladesh.(AP)

Ever since the Afghanistan team landed in Dehradun for the three-match T20 series against Bangladesh, the Asghar Stanikzai-led outfit’s bigger goal has been the historic Test against India in Bangalore. The excitement and camaraderie in the group is evident, from offering namaaz together at the ground before the match to celebrating the fall of a wicket, the Afghanis are having a ball.

Team effort, backing each other and delivering the goods are the virtues that helped the Afghanistan team take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series against Bangladesh, ahead of Thursday’s final game.

Spinners Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi might have joined the team a bit late due to their IPL duty with Sunrisers Hyderabad, but the seasoned duo jelled with the team the moment they arrived. The way Afghan spinners combined with Shapoor Zadran’s left-arm pace and restricted Bangladesh to 134 in the second T20 was brilliant. Although, there was a scare while chasing 135 after the asking rate soared, Samiullah Shenwari’s fiery 49 and Mohammad Nabi’s 21 saw Afghanistan home with seven balls to spare.

After the match, Shafiqullah said the captain and coach had instructed the batsmen not to lose wickets and told them if they had five wickets in hand in the last five overs, they would win. It shows the confidence the team management has in their outfit.

ALSO READ | Afghanistan Beat Bangladesh by six wickets, clinch series

“We are the best T20 side in the world at the moment, we can beat any side in the world. We are looking for a clean sweep in the series and looking forward to our maiden Test against India. We have clicked as a team, and Inshallah, we will do well against India,” Shafiqullah added.

Spinner Zahir Khan, part of the Afghanistan Test outfit, said: “We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Our captain is calm and composed and understands cricket well. He knows what Rashid Khan can do and what Mohammad Shahzad can do batting at top. We are like brothers, close knit,” Zahir had said ahead of the T20 series.

“This is what the team expects, I used to bowl after 11 overs earlier and this is the plan given to me, to bowl in the middle and end overs. I was mentally ready and wanted to bowl in the good length areas,” said Rashid after taking four wickets in the second T20.

He claimed the crucial wickets of Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Mosaddek Hossain and Soumya Sarkar.

The rise of Afghanistan cricket has been meteoric. And the way the team is showing confidence and entertaining crowds with its antics, it would be interesting to see them in whites taking on India in a different ball game altogether.