Ireland are known as ‘giant killers’ in limited-overs cricket, but if the performance of Afghanistan is taken into account in the 2018 Asia Cup, then they soon can take over the title from the Irishmen.
Afghanistan defeated Sri Lanka by a huge margin of 91 runs to knock out the Islanders from the tournament. And then they showed their supremacy in the shorter format, by thrashing Bangladesh by 136 runs in the group stages. They topped Group B in Asia Cup even though hardly anyone has bet their money on the new Test entrants.
Afghanistan win hearts
And they went down fighting in the Super 4 clash against Pakistan and Bangladesh, losing by 3 wickets and 3 runs respectively. The match could have gone Afghanistan’s way if luck was on their end. But Afghanistan won hearts with their competitiveness in comparison to an experienced Sri Lanka who looked like school boys in the tournament.
Now, Afghanistan face India in an inconsequential tie, but they would not take it lightly and would look to deflate few egos before Rohit Sharma and his men battle in the title round.
Opportunity for Afghanistan if India rest key players
Rohit might be tempted to rest a few top players in Shikhar Dhawan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah or even himself for the Afghanistan match and give some match practice to reserve players in Siddarth Kaul, KL Rahul, Manish Pandey or Khaleel Ahmed. And that presents an opportunity for Afghanistan to turn the tables on a superior outfit in India.
Afghanistan have played just one ODI against India before the upcoming Asia Cup encounter. They were beaten by 8 wickets in 2014 Asia Cup at Dhaka. But that was few years ago and since then Afghanistan have found new confidence, ready to take on the best in the format.
Challenges for Afghanistan ahead of India clash
Afghanistan need to work on few things ahead of the much-anticipated Asia Cup encounter against India, especially when their opponents have given them a friendly hand and offer to stage their home matches in Greater Noida. But come Tuesday, Afghanistan will keep friendship off the ground when they take on Rohit Sharma and his men.
Afghanistan have to work on closing matches as evident from the last two ODIs. Afghanistan needed to defend 16 runs off 9 balls against Pakistan, but the experienced Shoaib Malik guided them home with few lusty hits in the last over.
Against Bangladesh, they needed 11 runs off 10 balls before the departure of Mohammad Nabi saw them lose momentum and the match by 3 runs. Even the dependable Rashid Khan could not rescue Afghanistan this time.
Can Afghanistan win a consolation against India?
If only Afghanistan work on sharpening their skills of finishing off games, it won’t be long they beat top teams on a consistent basis in the shorter format.
At the moment, Afghanistan would be eyeing the Indian challenge in the Asia Cup and this time, they would look to finish off the game in their favour after two heart-breaking narrow losses. Nevertheless, Afghanistan have won hearts with their performance in Asia Cup and a win against India will be great consolation for them.