Bangladesh turn to Shakib and Mushfiqur, again, as Farooqi threat looms large

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Afghanistan vs Bangladesh is the Asian Cup downward rivalry. If not, it certainly is, as it’s getting close to the India-Pakistan match this weekend.

There are clear favorites — and underdogs — for this one, too. Bangladesh has seen their T20I fortune drop significantly in recent times. Afghanistan, after losing a T20I series earlier this month in Ireland, came together against Sri Lanka in their first match of the Asian Cup. It was also their second biggest win in terms of balls remaining – 59.

Fazalhaq Farooqi and Naveen-ul-Haq made full use of the new ball after Mohammad Nabi sent off Sri Lanka. They were reduced to 5 for 3 in the second over themselves. Afghanistan only allowed a brief resistance before Sri Lanka collapsed again. Then it was the turn of Afghanistan’s smashing opening pair, Hazratullah Zazai and Rahmanullah Gurbaz to get the job done. They hit 13 boundaries between them, including four sixes from Gurbaz in his 18-ball 40. A few wickets fell, but Afghanistan gave a good glimpse of their attacking flair. And familiarity with the conditions helps – they have played many short matches in the UAE.

Attacking flair and an aggressive attitude – Bangladesh’s T20I game lacks both.

They are coming to a low ebb in the Asian Cup, having lost both white-ball series in Zimbabwe earlier this month. They gave away strong positions in both T20I losses as they went down 2-1.

Sabbir Rahman and Mohammad Naim are also sidelined again, but that’s mostly due to injuries to Litton Das and Nurul Hasan, two batters who have shown some T20I form lately. Sabbir returned after training with the Bangladesh Tigers squad, while Naim hit a century earlier this month in the one-day series against West Indies A.

Perhaps being underdogs will help Bangladesh against high-flying Afghanistan.

Shape guide

Last five completed matches; most recent first
Afghanistan WLWWL
Bangladesh LWLLL

In the spotlight

Fazalhaq Farooqi was one of the heroes of Afghanistan in the match against Sri Lanka. His opening salvo blew away the top order and he finished 3 for 11, the kind of spell Bangladesh knows earlier this year – Farooqi was quick, accurate and effective in the ODI and T20I series in Chattogram and Dhaka. His self-confidence should increase enormously after the demolition job in Sri Lanka.

Shakib Al Hasan is Bangladesh’s best bet against Afghanistan, or anyone else for that matter. Returning after almost three years as captain of the T20I, Shakib has a lot on his plate, but he is known as someone who always manages to get the best out of himself under pressure. His four overs provide an attacking option for Bangladesh, while his freestyle play will help the erroneous top order.

Team news

Afghanistan has little reason to change the playing XI, and, bar injuries, should remain unchanged.

Afghanistan (probably): 1 Hazratullah Zazai, 2 Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), 3 Ibrahim Zadran, 4 Najibullah Zadran, 5 Karim Janat, 6 Mohammad Nabi (capt), 7 Rashid Khan, 8 Azmatullah Omarzai, 9 Naveen-ul-Haq, 10 Mujeeb Ur Rahman, 11 Fazalhaq Farooqi

Bangladesh has a few more options than when they went to Zimbabwe with a limited roster. Shakib, Mushfiqur and Saifuddin should all step in and will balance their lineup.

Bangladeshi (probably): 1 Mohammad Naim, 2 Anamul Haque, 3 Shakib Al Hasan (capt), 4 Afif Hossain, 5 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 6 Mahmudullah, 7 Sabbir Rahman, 8 Mahedi Hasan, 9 Mohammad Saifuddin, 10 Nasum Ahmed, 11 Mustafizur Rahman

Location and conditions

Despite its small size, Sharjah has a surprisingly low batting average – 143 – for sides that batted first in T20Is over the past 12 months. The weather will be quite warm even though it is 6pm [local time] get started.

Statistics and trivia

  • Shakib becomes the third Bangladeshi cricketer to play 100 T20Is after Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur.
  • Spinners have a better average, economy and strike rate than fast bowlers on the Sharjah grounds in the past 12 months.
  • Afghanistan has a 5-3 lead over Bangladesh in T20Is, although their last bilateral series finished 1-1.
  • Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84

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