Asia Cup is set to return this week from for its fourteenth edition, emanating from United Arab Emirates. The tournament is scheduled from September 15 to September 28, 2018. Unlike the previous edition in 2016 (which India won ), which was played in T20I Format, the tournament will revert back to the traditional ODI format and will feature six Asian Cricket Teams; India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Hong Kong.
In the latest edition of Asia cup, we will see six Asian nations squaring off for the Coveted trophy. Of the 6 participating teams, five elite Asian teams qualified automatically, while the remaining sixth team had to play qualifying tournament and win it to qualify for the Asia Cup. The six teams are divided into two groups. Group A will involve arch-rivals India and Pakistan along with the qualifier Hong Kong whereas Group B will involve Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will face off in the opening match of the tournament on 15th September
The qualifying tournament was held in Malaysia, which included 6 budding cricket nations Oman, Singapore, Malaysia, Nepal, UAE and Hong Kong. UAE and Hong Kong had reached the final of the tournament. The final was curtailed to 24 overs per side due to rain. Hong Kong narrowly edged past the Asia cup hosts UAE in an enthralling encounter.
Now let’s take a look at Associate nations like Hong Kong and Afghanistan and their chances of upsetting their heavy weight Asian Neighbours and possibility of qualifying for the play offs. We will also predict the fate of former two time Finalists Bangladesh team, who is no longer can be considered the underdogs in the ODI format, as they have time and again proved by some Inspirational wins against the top nations in ICC tournaments in last five years.
The emerging Asian nation was rewarded recently for its efforts in the international arena. ICC awarded Afghanistan full Test status along with the Ireland cricket team. Afghanistan played their Inaugural test match against India in June this year at Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore. Afghanistan First played an ICC tournament in 2010, after successfully qualifying for the ICC World Twenty20 held in West Indies. Since then the War effected nation has come a long way improving their skills by leaps and bounds to the extent that they are now consistently qualifying for major ICC tournaments and Causing notable upsets ( like their win against world champions West Indies in 2016 T20 World cup).
They have already qualified for the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup by surging ahead of the likes of Zimbabwe and Ireland, who previously participated regularly at cricket’s biggest extravaganza (ODI World cup). Afghans not only qualified for the World Cup next year (hosted by England) but won the qualifying tournament by defeating two-time World Cup winners West Indies team (which had the likes of Chris Gayle, Lewis, Holder, Russel) in the final, which proves their immense improvement in ODI cricket since their inception.
The vice-captain of the team Rashid Khan is already considered a Superstar at age 19, across the world and is probably the most famous Afghan alive for all good reasons, mostly due to his heroic performances for his national team and his exploits in the IPL for Sunrisers Hyderabad Franchise. The maverick Leg spinner became the fastest and youngest bowler to take 100 wickets in ODIs when he dismissed Shai Hope of West Indies in the final match of 2018 ICC Cricket World Cup qualifiers.
The team is blessed with another prodigy, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, who rose to prominence earlier this year when he was acquired by the Kings XI Punjab in the 2018 IPL Auction for a hefty amount of 4 crores. He performed very well for his franchise before his tournament come to an unfortunate end because of an injury. He was also a part of Afghanistan’s squad for the 2018 ICC Cricket World Cup qualifiers and ended his campaign with 17 wickets, the joint highest wicket taker along with his close buddy Rashid Khan and Scotland’s Safyaan Sharif. Along with these two they have some potent swing and pace bowlers to trouble the oppositions batting line up.
Their batting line up has more often than not let down their counterparts. The experienced players like Mohammad Shahzad, Asghar Afghan and Mohammad Nabi need to step up and score bulk of runs in order to win matches. Shahzad, who has scored 4 centuries and 12 half-centuries in ODI’s till date, needs to provide his team solidity and launching pad at the top of the order. Nabi, the team’s leading ODI run-getter and wicket-taker is expected to be vital cog in the middle order player along with skipper Asghar. Afghanistan has played 15 one-day internationals this year out of which they have won 10 and lost five and are currently ranked 10th in the ICC ODI Rankings.
They are in group B along with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka so they have very good chances of getting through to the play offs as they are capable of defeating one or both Bangladesh and depleted Sri Lanka.
Their squad for the Asia Cup – Asghar Afghan (C), Mohammad Shahzad, Ihsanullah Janat, Javed Ahmadi, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan, Najibullah Zadran, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Aftab Alam, Samiullah Shenwari, Munir Ahmad, Sayed Shirzad, Sharafuddin Ashraf and Wafadar.
Expected XI : Mohammad Shahzad, Gulbadin Naib, Rahmat Shah, Samiullah Shenwari, Asghar Afghan (C), Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Rashid Khan, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Aftab Alam.
Inspite of reaching the finals of Asia cup on two occasions the Bangladesh team failed to capture the coveted trophy. This time around they will look to get their hands on the prestigious Asia Cup. With the presence of the likes of Skipper Mashrafe Mortaza, dependable opener Tamim Iqbal, all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan, ever reliable Mushfiqur Rahim, flamboyant Mahmudullah and deceptive Mustafizur Rahman the Bangladesh team will look to win the trophy for the first time.
Shakib is one of the most crucial player for the Bangladesh cricket team as he has gained experience by playing in leagues all around the world and honed his all-round skills. So, his inclusion in the Asia Cup squad will definitely be blessing providing much-needed confidence for the Bangladesh Tigers in the tournament. Like Shakib, Tamim also had a minor injury concern, in the lead up to the tournament, as he was suffering from a hairline fracture on his finger. But right before the start of the tournament, Tamim has been deemed fit by doctors after taking rest for a few days.
Tamim Iqbal has been in red hot form in the recent times and also is the leading run-getter in ODIs for Bangladesh. Tamim was in superb form in the recently concluded Windies ODI series as he hit 130* in the first match, followed by 54 and 103 in the second and third ODI’s. Mahmudullah, the right-handed batting all-rounder who had an outstanding run of form in recently concluded the Caribbean Premier League and Mushfiqur Rahim are set to take the responsibility of anchoring the team in the middle order.
Shakib is not only their premium batsmen, but also one of their mainstay bowling departments. He together with skipper Mashrafe Mortaza and Sensational Mustafizur rehman will be the ones expected to carry the burden in the bowling department. Bangladesh’s recent record looks decent as they emerged victorious 2-1 in their most recent three-match series against the West Windies team, but prior to the West Indies series, they lost to South Africa 0-3 before losing to Sri Lanka in the final of the home tri-series that also featured Zimbabwe.
So they lost 2 of the 3 series they played in recent times. Bangladesh team has five wins and three defeats from the eight ODIs they have played this year and are presently placed at 7th position in the ICC ODI Rankings. They are placed along with Afghanistan and Sri Lanka so they have a very good chance of qualifying for the playoffs. They are expected to finish the group stage with top position.
Their Squad for the Asia cup : Mashrafe Mortaza (C), Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Mohammad Mithun, Liton Das, Mushfiqur Rahim, Ariful Haque, Mahmudullah, Mosaddek Hossain, Mehidy Hasan, Nazmul Islam, Rubel Hossain, Mustafizur Rahman, Abu Hider Rony, Nazmul Hossain Shanto and Mominul Haque.
Expected XI : Tamim Iqbal, Liton Das, Mominul Haque, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahmudullah, Mosaddek Hossain, Mashrafe Mortaza (C), Mehidy Hasan, Rubel Hossain, Mustafizur Rahman.
Hong Kong team defied the odds and went on to win the Qualifiers to Qualify for the Asia cup. They started their campaign in the qualifiers with a loss against Malaysia, but after that they remained undefeated throughout the tournament. They beat the likes of Singapore, UAE and Nepal in the league stage and then narrowly got past relatively stronger UAE again in the final match. It came off as a surprise because the Hong Kong team was not having a great time as they have lost their One Day International status earlier this year because of their abysmal performance in the 2018 ICC World cup Qualifiers.
But they showed a lot of grit and improvement to emerge victorious in the Asia cup Qualifiers. ICC also awarded Official status to their matches in the Asia cup. Their batting will mostly rely on Former skipper Babar Hayat and Current skipper Anshuman Rath. Babar has an average of 42.26 while Anshuman Rath has an average of 52.25 in 50 overs Cricket. Rath scored 209 runs in the qualifiers at an average of 42 while Babar also scored a century in the tournament. They will also expect some runs from Swashbuckling Opener Nizakat Khan at the top order and from Christopher Karten and Ehsan Khan in the middle order.
Bowling department will rely on Aziaz khan who picked up a five wicket haul in the final of the qualifiers. Among others Nadeem and Tanwir Afzal are notable bowlers in the squad. They are in the group consisting of India and Pakistan, two of the strongest teams in the world, so they are not expected to proceed further in the playoffs. They will, however gain some valuable experience by playing against top nations.
Their Squad for the Asia cup : Anshuman Rath (C), Aizaz Khan, Aftab Hussain, Babar Hayat, Cameron McAuslan, Christopher Carter, Ehsan Khan, Ehsan Nawaz, Haroon Arshad, Kinchit Shah, Nadeem Ahmed, Nizakat Khan, Raag Kapur, Scott McKechnie, Tanveer Ahmed, Tanwir Afzal and Waqas Khan.
Expected XI : Anshuman Rath (C), Nizakat Khan, Babar Hayat, Kinchit Shah, Christopher Carter, Ehsan Khan, Aizaz Khan, Scott McKechnie, Tanwir Afzal, Ehsan Nawaz, Nadeem Ahmed.
Afghanistan and Bangladesh teams have very good chances of qualifying for the playoffs.
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