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|Dhananjaya de Silva||23||38||2||1||60.53|
|Mujib Ur Rahman||9.0||1||32||2||3.56|
|Mujib Ur Rahman||0||2||0||0||0.00|
|Dhananjaya de Silva||5.0||0||22||0||4.40|
The first match of the Asia Cup got off to an incredible start as Sri Lanka started strong and then crumbled under the scoreboard pressure to now be in a must-win situation. Sri Lanka will be facing Afghanistan in their second match of the tournament and must raise their game to progress further. Afghanistan is the dark horse in Group B and will come into this game sensing an opportunity. Their opponent is in disarray and could be ripe for the picking.
This will be the first ODI match between the two sides in nearly three years and both teams have changed a lot from then. Sri Lanka has spiraled downward while Afghanistan has improved steadily. This contest is no longer the foregone conclusion it once was.
There was a lot of speculation about the return of Lasith Malinga into the side and about his ability to cope with the heat. He had not played a match for close to sixteen months but showed once again the folly of counting out a champion.
Malinga took four wickets and could have won his side the match if the catching would have been a bit better. None the less, Malinga would be keen to continue his good form against Afghanistan and ensure a smooth passage for Sri Lanka.
Suranga Lakmal was also good for Sri Lanka at the start of the inning but he too would be disappointed at not finishing off the job when Bangladesh was on the mat.
This lack of ruthlessness is something that was seen in all the Sri Lankan players. They let the game meander and were unwilling to take risks even when they had very little to lose. Apart from Malinga and de Silva, every other bowler went for plenty of runs in the death overs.
Sri Lanka’s bowling will have an easier target against Afghanistan but they cannot afford to take it easy against them either. Akila Dananjaya is not expected to be available for this match either and so the team may stick with Amila Aponso.
The bowling may have allowed Bangladesh to reach a competitive total but it was the batting that really let them down. Upul Tharanga got off to a good start to throw it away and not a single one of the top order batsmen showed the application to fight back.
In a performance where none of the batsmen performed well, which one do you hold responsible? Perhaps the answer would be to keep the same team and actually add another batsman into the lineup at the expense of one of the all-rounders.
Is Shanaka a good enough batsman to bat in the top-6 and keep someone like Niroshan Dickwella out of the side? We would not be surprised if Sri Lanka adds another batting option into this side and plays it a little safe.
Sri Lanka is a better side than they showed in the last match. The tournament allows them to make a comeback from that performance by winning the match. They have no option but to win and by a handsome margin to give themselves the best chance of moving on to the next stage.
WU Tharanga, Kusal Mendis , Kusal Perera, Dhananjaya de Silva, Angelo Mathews, Dasun Shanaka, Thisara Perera, Shehan Jayasuriya, Akila Dananjaya, Lasith Malinga, PVD Chameera.
The 50 over format has been a bit of a mixed bag for Afghanistan in recent times. They came back from near annihilation to qualify for the 2019 ICC World Cup and then won a series against Ireland 2-1. Afghanistan seems to raise its game against the better sides but is frequently beaten by much weaker associate sides.
As Afghanistan plays in bigger tournaments and builds towards the World Cup, they will need to get this inconsistency out of their system.
The clear culprit is Afghanistan’s batting and surprisingly, its fast bowling. From having a cupboard full of promising fast bowlers, Afghanistan is currently taking the field with just one regular fast bowler in its playing eleven.
Mohammad Shahzad, Rahmat Shah, Asghar Afghan, Javed Ahmadi, and Mohammad Nabi are the main batsmen in the side. Samiullah Shenwari and is very useful down the order and a couple of promising youngsters are in the squad as well.
This batting side has to start well and hope that it can score against a weak Sri Lanka lineup. The conditions are such that taking advantage of the new ball is very important. Mohammad Shahzad will be happy to be back in familiar conditions where he can hopefully regain his form.
He is the designated pinch hitter at the top and is going to go hard at the bowling no matter what. We are more excited to see Rahmat Shah’s performance in this tournament. He is a class batsman that can maneuver the field and play the big inning.
Similarly, Mohammad Nabi and Samiullah Shenwari are the two batsmen that can go hard against the Sri Lankan spinners. There is no doubt that batting is Afghanistan’s weak suit but at least they will be playing in familiar conditions.
Afghanistan’s real strength is its bowling, specifically its spinners. Rashid Khan has been brilliant around the world and comes on in the middle orders to try and pick some wickets. Mujeeb Ur Rahman bowls with the new ball and is difficult to read out of his hand. His job is to take early wickets while keeping the runs down.
Mohammad Nabi, another player with extensive experience of playing around the world, is very adept at keeping things tight. These three bowlers will be the biggest threats to the Sri Lankan batting. Any wickets that the likes of Wafadar, Glubadin Naib or others pick may be seen as a bonus for Afghanistan.
On its day, Afghanistan can not only compete but win against Sri Lanka, but it will need to have a good batting performance to be able to do so.
M Shahzad, Ihsanullah, R Shah, Gulbadin Naib, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Asghar Stanikzai, N Zadran, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Aftab Alam, Mujeeb Ur Rahman.
The side winning the toss is likely to bat first
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The weather has been very hot without any threat of rain but there is little else that you can expect while playing in a desert! This will be the first match being played in Abu Dhabi but we don’t think the surface will be much different from what we saw in Dubai.
A dry surface, flat, and a little difficult to score of with help in it for the spinners can be expected. A score of around 250 should be considered par.
Afghanistan has never beaten Sri Lanka in an ODI before but that is no reason to count them out. It has a world class bowling attack and will be up against a Sri Lankan batting that will be low in confidence. That being side, Sri Lanka has experience on its side and should bounce back after a disastrous start.
Back Sri Lanka to win.
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