'Quality' Afghanistan ready for Asia Cup heavyweights
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Skipper Mohammad Nabi said Afghanistan is ready for the big guns after they became the first team to qualify for the Super Four stage of the Asia Cup following victories over Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
"As a team in this Asia Cup we are showing that Afghanistan have quality batsmen, quality bowlers and quality fielders," said all-rounder Nabi after Afghanistan thrashed Bangladesh by seven wickets on Tuesday.
"In these two games we showed we can chase totals. Earlier opposition used to say that Afghanistan cannot chase.
"But we were quite good (in the two chases), were not under pressure and had proper balance and hopefully we do well in the next round against big teams," added the 37-year-old.
Afghanistan's victory over Bangladesh in Sharjah put them into the next round of the six-nation Twenty20 tournament.
Najibullah Zadran smashed six sixes in his 17-ball unbeaten 43 chasing down a target of 128 with nine balls to spare, accompanied by Ibrahim Zadran (42).
The two stood out after spinners Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Rashid Khan took three wickets each to flatten the fancied Bangladesh batting in a tournament which acts as a tune-up to the T20 World Cup in October-November in Australia.
Fast bowler Fazalhaq Farooqi starred in his team's opening win against Sri Lanka last week with figures of 3-11 and Nabi said the team has covered all the bases going to the Super Four where they are expected to meet India and Pakistan.
"We are not targeting anyone, we are just playing proper cricket," said Nabi.
Since overcoming the odds to compete in the 2010 World T20 in England, the Afghan team, which was awarded Test status in 2017, has managed to qualify for all the major international tournaments.
- No surprises -
The one-time nomads -- many of whom were born or brought up in exile -- have changed bases from Sharjah and Dubai to cities around India and Abu Dhabi.
"From the last 15 years most of the times we have played in Dubai and Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, we know the conditions better," said Nabi.
"Sometimes in Sharjah a low total is tough to chase, that's why in a low chase the batsmen didn't throw away early wickets and at the end we targeted the bowlers and won the game."
Players including Rashid, Nabi and Mujeeb have sharpened their skills while playing cricket around the world including in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Nabi praised the 21-year-old Mujeeb, a spinner who rattled Bangladesh with an opening spell of 3-9 in his first three overs, for his bowling in the powerplay, the first six overs when only two fielders are allowed outside the inner circle.
"He has always bowled brilliantly in the first six overs," said Nabi.
"He is a mystery bowler and bowls in the top leagues and against top opposition. He is a good spinner."
The team is coached by former England batsman Jonathan Trott and ex-Pakistan fast bowler Umar Gul recently joined the team as bowling coach.
This new coaching team has received wide praise from the cricketing fraternity with former India fast bowler Irfan Pathan tweeting that "Afghanistan is playing some quality cricket".
"They are on the move and teams should be wary, India or Pakistan," former India batsman Ajay Jadeja said on Indian website cricbuzz.
"When you play these guys in the Super Four, I won't be surprised if they knock one of the big teams off, because they have that firepower."