Asghar Stanikzai backed legspinner Rashid Khan to be a threat against South Africa © Associated Press
Afghanistan’s captain, Asghar Stanikzai, has said that his team will be in it to win it when they face South Africa at the Wankhede Stadium on Sunday, and backed his spin trio of Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan and Hamza Hotak to cause plenty problems in a contest that their opponents cannot afford to lose.
Coming off the back of a spirited display against Sri Lanka in Kolkata, in which the experience of Tillakaratne Dilshan held firm in a tense five-wicket win, Stanikzai believes that the hard surface and short boundaries of Mumbai could play into the hands of his team.
“The Wankhede is famous for big scores and big targets so definitely, if one team sets a big total, the other team will be trying to complete it because the boundaries are not big,” he said. “It will be a good game, but we hope we bowl well because our spin is our strength.
“We have a good spin attack, the leggie Rashid, Nabi a good offbreak [bowler], and Hamza the leftie, throughout the tournament they have bowled very well.”
In their eight overs in Kolkata, Nabi and Rashid claimed combined figures of 2 for 52, plus the run-out of Chamara Kapugedera, to keep their side firmly in the hunt until the closing overs. Having witnessed the relative success of Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali amid the seam-bowling carnage in Mumbai on Friday night, and having hit his own stride with the bat in a whirlwind 62 from 47 balls against Sri Lanka, Stanikzai believes his side has the confidence and the balance to prosper.
“Every batsman, when he plays well, gets more confident for the next game,” Stanikzai said. “Definitely I got more confident, most of our guys are currently in form and confident. We will play South Africa like we play every country, with our own [brand of] cricket. We give a tough time to every team, we not only play with them, but want to beat one or two of them as well.”
Afghanistan are battle-hardened in this tournament, after fighting through a tough qualifying round in which only one nation from each of the two groups was invited to progress. And with Inzamam-ul-Haq and Manoj Prabhakar firmly embedded in their ranks as coach and bowling coach respectively, there is a seam of top-level experience in the back-room staff.
“The first round was very tough, but we qualify for the second round and we are currently playing very good,” Stanikzai said. “We have definitely improved our cricket at international and elite level. As long as we play more cricket with Full Members we will get more experience, and be able to identify the weak areas we need to work on to compete at the elite level.”
Afghanistan are now into their fifth ICC global event, having first appeared at the World T20 in the Caribbean in 2010. And that determination for self-improvement is helping the sport to embed itself back home.
“There is a big craze for cricket in Afghanistan nowadays,” Stanikzai said. “We have very good support everywhere, people know each and every one of our players by name, they are heroes and role models. And the main positive is that whether we are winning or losing, they are supporting us. They are telling us, we can do better, which is the most important thing.”
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo