An Afghanistan player bats during a practice session. Courtesy: ACB Twitter
Mohammad Abdullah, Senior Sports Reporter
A buoyant Scotland will begin their Super 12 campaign against a formidable Afghanistan in Sharjah on Monday. Scotland are brimming with confidence after advancing to the Round of Super 12 with two victories from three games in the first round.
Scotland stunned Bangladesh and went on to beat Oman to progress to the Super 12. They seem to have a well-balanced side, which covers all the important aspects of the games. Despite a clinical performance in the first round, Scotland leading batsman Calum MacLeod is wary of threat posed by Afghan spin duo of Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi.
The Afghan duo are renowned for their crafty spin bowling which has troubled batsmen all over the world. McLeod has faced Rashid in the World Cup qualifiers and other franchise cricket tournaments across the globe.
“I think ‘it'll be a big challenge against Afghanistan’s spinners. Everyone knows that they have quality spinners in their bowling attack,” said McLeod.
“The best way to tackle them is to try and attack them. If you allow bowlers to bowl on their will, they will dominate with their skills."
"So you have to find a way of mounting the pressure back on them., either with sweeping shots or by coming down the pitch. Whatever your method is, you've got to stick to it and be disciplined to go with it," added MacLeod.
Despite Afghanistan being the favourites, McLeod conceded he is confident about his team’s prospect of winning the match.
"We are coming into match with a lot of confidence after advancing from the first round and beating better teams like Bangladesh. We've topped that group with three good matches, so that will boost our confidence.
“As it'll be Afghanistan's first game in the tournament, and we have a chance to go in there and put some pressure on them.”
He also said batting is their strength and they will bank on their batsmen to deliver. "I said it before the beginning of the first round, we've got a very good batting line-up filled with some powerful players.
“I hope we can translate it into action on the field and showcase our hitting skills. Having moved to Super 12 does not make much difference to us. We will play a firebrand cricket,” he apprised.
McLeod also said that his team is aspiring to become next Full Member with a good performance at the international stage. Qualifying for the Super 12 has given a lot of boost to their aspiration.
Scotland have been around on the international stage for quite a some time but they failed to cement their place among the Fulll Members like Afghanistan and Ireland.
"I think Super 12 qualification is significant, not just for the team but also for the board and some of the plans and aspirations that Cricket Scotland have. We want to be the leading associate nation, and want to push our case to become the next Full Member.
"If you look at the way Afghanistan and Ireland achieved it. They performed well at the World Cups and made most of the opportunities that came their way to showcase their talent. “So we also have got an opportunity to go out show the world what we are capable of and push our case forward,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan will look to open their World Cup campaign on a winning note with a victory over minnows Scotland. They have a good opportunity to set the tone for the rest of the tournament with a winning start.
Afghanistan have enjoyed an astounding rise up the international cricket. They have taken big strides to gain the Full Member status, thus becoming a Test side in the process.
They are used to playing in the UAE and know the conditions and the pitches quite well. With their familiarity of the conditions and pitches suiting their bowling attack, Afghanistan will look to go deep into the tournament and leave an indelible impression on the showpiece event.
Ever since their tournament debut at the 2010 ICC Men's T20 World Cup in the Caribbean, it has been a story of fairytale rise through striving constantly for improvement. Afghans have a stellar record in the shortest format of the game and they have stunned some of the best teams of the world in T20 format.
They have played 84 matches and won 58 of them, with a 69.64 per cent winning ratio, which is better than some of the top teams of the world. Their most potent weapon is spin bowling.
Rashid, jewel of their crown, is coming into the tournament on the back of some good match practice with his IPL team Sunrisers Hyderabad.
He will be assisted by Mujeeb ur Rahman and Nabi. Hazratullah Zazai, who rose to fame after hitting six sixes in an over in Sharjah during the Afghanistan Premier League, will be the man to watch for in batting.
Najibullah Zadran will be tasked with giving a blazing start to the team.
"I think young players should see him as a role model as he is still competing with them in domestic events and that shows how mentally strong he has been. "He is looking good and that shows he wants to go on a high."
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