Afghanistan hopes to seal the series against Bangladesh

While Afghanistan is upbeat about sealing the series in Tuesday’s second T20, Bangladesh will hope for a miracle for keeping the series alive.

Rashid Khan played a key role in the first T20 against Bangladesh,   -  Sandeep Saxena

So fickle is the shortest format of the game where room for error is very less and one player can play a decisive role, seldom can a T20 win be termed as clinical or an all-round performance by a team. Sunday night’s series-opener between Afghanistan and Bangladesh saw the ‘home’ team putting on a formidable show during its convincing 45-run win at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium.

It may be a home series for Afghanistan but considering the fact that the scenic stadium was hosting its first-ever big cricket match, neither team enjoyed an advantage going into the match. Despite Bangladesh being the senior of the Asian sides in terms of international experience, Afghanistan entered the series as a clear favourite, owing to the confidence levels, individual form of key players and the balance of both the squads.

With an eye on preparations for its historic first Test, due to start in Bengaluru in less than a fortnight, Afghanistan fielded only five key players in the three-match series. Once all the five players – Asghar Stanikzai, Mohammad Shahzad, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman – played their roles to near-perfection, the writing was clear on the wall.

While Shahzad gave the team a rollicking start, captain Stanikzai’s 18-ball 36 ensured that Afghanistan had an above-par total on the board. The spin triumvirate of Nabi, Rashid and Mujeed then took over as it shared combined figures of 54 for six in 11 overs to derail Bangladesh's batting.

“It was totally a team effort, bowling batting and fielding, which is the main thing. We know that it is one department where we need to improve and be on top all the time. All the players contributed, that’s why we won the match so comfortably,” said Rashid, who starred with three for 13, including wickets of Mushfiqur Rahim and Sabbir Rehman off his first two balls.

While Afghanistan is upbeat about sealing the series in Tuesday’s second T20, Bangladesh will hope for a miracle for keeping the series alive. It will be banking on the veterans Tamim Iqbal, Shakil Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim to score big and give the much-needed cushion to a largely inexperience pace bowling unit. If the senior batsmen don’t fire, Thursday’s rubber may end up being an inconsequential affair.