Afghanistan are favourites to beat Sri Lanka again in the DP World Asia Cup. The Mohammad Nabi-led side come into Saturday’s Super 4 clash on the back of two wins in the preliminaries, which should give them immense confidence.
The Afghans won when the two sides clashed in Dubai, and the Sharjah encounter offers another chance to extend their dominance over Sri Lanka. They have a balanced attack after young pacers Fazalhaq Farooqi and Naveen ul Haq impressed with their pace and swing.
The two pacers helped the Afghans grab the initiative in the last fixture, while the world-class spinners led by Rashid Khan choked Bangladesh. The spin trio of Rashid, Nabi and Mujib ur Rahman will love to bowl again in Sharjah, where the pitch lends more turn.
Batting too has clicked for Afghanistan with openers Hazratullah Zazai and Rahmanullah Gurban at the destructive best in the tournament opener, and the Zadrans, Najibullah and Ibrahim, weathered the Bangladesh spin threat before finding the boundaries at will.
So Sri Lanka faces an enormous task on Saturday, but they will take heart from the narrow win against Bangladesh in a thriller. Spinners Wanindu Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekshana bowled well, as did newcomer Dilshan Madushanka. But batting is a worry.
Kushal Mendis made good of several lives to post a half-century, and skipper Dasun Shanaka played positively. But they will want Charith Asalanka and Bhanuka Rajapaksa to pull their weight if Sri Lanka have to progress in the tournament.
Sri Lanka capitalised on Bangladesh’s mistakes to make the Super 4, but Afghanistan are unlikely to make similar costly errors. Their white-ball game has come a long way. The islanders will have to raise their game to challenge the Afghans. Even then, it would require an upset to snap the two-game win streak of Nabi’s side.