Sat, 25 May 2019

CWC 2019 team profile: Afghanistan

News24
13 May 2019, 22:12 GMT+10

Cape Town - The 2019 Cricket World Cup gets underway on Thursday, May 30 when the Proteas take on England at The Oval in London.

With the squads all confirmed and the IPL now a thing of the past, attention will move swiftly to the World Cup and South Africa's efforts to finally taste success in a tournament that has haunted them for decades.

Sport24 will be bringing you all of the news you need to to know before and during the showpiece.

Over the next two weeks, we will be profiling all 10 of the sides competing, highlighting their chances at the competition and players to look out for.

We'll be providing one team preview every day, moving along in alphabetical order.

It means that we start with minnows, Afghanistan.

AFGHANISTAN

Overview

This will be Afghanistan's second World Cup after they debuted in the competition four years ago in Australia and New Zealand. A nail-biting one-wicket win over Scotland was all they had to show for their efforts back then, limping to second-bottom in Pool A to comfortably miss the playoffs. Granted official Test status in 2017, Afghanistan is a cricket nation showing continuous rapid improvement. They won the 2018 World Cup qualifier tournament, beating the West Indies in the final, to book their ticket to England and Wales. Few will be expecting this side to ruffle any feathers in 2019, but a closer look at their squad suggests that they will threaten an upset or two.

Squad: Gulbadin Naib (captain), Mohammad Shahzad, Noor Ali Zadran, Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah, Asghar Afghan, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shinwari, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Dawlat Zadran, Aftab Alam, Hamid Hassan, Mujeeb ur Rahman

Coach: Phil Simmons

Bookies prediction: 10th

Best World Cup finish: Group stages - 2015

Batsman to watch

This is where Afghanistan will struggle most. Scores well over 300 are expected to be commonplace at the World Cup, and pure hitters will come into play throughout the competition. Afghanistan do not have many players who, on paper, can take the game away from opposition bowling attacks. In Rahmat Shah, though, they have a player in good form at the top of their order. Shah and experienced opener Mohammad Shahzad will be key to any success Afghanistan have with the bat. The 25-year-old Shah is fresh off a century against Scotland and while he is not known for his hitting, he has an ability to accumulate and keep the strike ticking over. Shahzad is more explosive and will look to make the most of the hard, new ball in the powerplay overs.

Bowler to watch

Rashid Khan is, by some distance, Afghanistan's biggest weapon. Still just 20-years-old, Khan is one of the game's most devastating leg spinners, evidenced by the fact that he is ranked 3rd in the world in the format. His ODI numbers are ridiculous: 123 wickets at an average of 15.00 and an economy rate of just 3.90. A lot of those wickets would have come against associate members, but Khan is world class. His control and variation ensure that he is a constant threat, and even the very best batsmen at the tournament will tread with caution when they face him. In Khan, this Afghanistan side has a proven match-winner. Because of him, they will back themselves against anybody.

Realistic expectation

Afghanistan will not make the semi-finals, but they will certainly not be a pushover. They do not have the depth of quality to win consistently, but there is more than enough to suggest that they will cause an upset or two along the way. If Khan clicks on any given day and he is accompanied by some back-up contributions of substance, especially with the bat, then Afghanistan can cause problems. They will be looking at matches against Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the West Indies as big opportunities. A top eight finish in the 10-team tournament would surely be considered a success.

Fixtures

June 1 v Australia (Bristol)

June 4 v Sri Lanka (Cardiff)

June 8 v New Zealand (Taunton)

June 15 v South Africa (Cardiff)

June 18 v England (Manchester)

June 22 v India (Southampton)

June 24 v Bangladesh (Southampton)

June 29 v Pakistan (Leeds)

July 4 v West Indies (Leeds)

Twitter: @ACBofficials

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