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Afghanistan and Zimbabwe will test each other in a 2-match T20 and 5-match ODI series in the UAE, that starts with the 1st T20 match at Sharjah on 5th February. While Zimbabwe recently faced Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the T20 Tri Series and put up a good effort, Afghanistan had taken on West Indies in the Caribbean mid last year wherein they lost the series in a complete whitewash. Both teams will be raring to go and put up a good performance as they prepare for the World Cup Qualifiers slated to be held in Zimbabwe in March. It needs to be seen which of these associate teams can make a good impression with a win on Monday.
Asghar Stanikzai leads the side with his batting prowess and has the service of players like wicket-keeper batsman Mohammad Shahzad, Najibullah Zadran, Shafiqullah Shafiq, Usman Ghani and all-rounders like Mohammad Nabi, Samiullah Shenwari, Karim Sadiq and Gulbadin Naib who can keep the scoreboard ticking. Others like Sharafuddin Ashraf, Rashid Khan and the captain himself add depth to the batting line-up.
The speedsters leading the charge are Hamid Hassan, Shapoor Zadran and Aftab Alam who provide the left and right combination. Spinners Mohmmad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Zadran and Samiullah Shenwari can stifle the opponents with their proven tactics while others like Karim Sadiq, Gulbadin Naib and Stanikzai could bring variety to the attack. They have a well-balanced pace and spin squad that could prove to be a stiff challenge to Zimbabwe here.
Overall, Afghanistan has done well for itself in international T20 circuit and several of the players have been performing well in T20 leagues around the globe; they surely have the resources to win here.
M Shahzad, MA Stanikzai, Shafiqullah, N Zadran, Karim Sadiq, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Gulbadin Naib, Aftab Alam, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Mujeeb Zadran.
They recently lost three out of four matches in the tri series in Bangladesh, but their team will remain unchanged as they hope to boost the morale of the players. Young fast-bowler Blessing Muzurabani, who had a dismal debut in Bangladesh, has been retained in the side that consists of other pacers like Tendai Chatara, Solomon Mire and Kyle Jarvis. Spinners like Peter Moor, Sikandar Raza the all-rounder, Malcolm Waller and Graeme Cremer bring depth to the attack while others like Tendai Chisoro, Chris Mpofu and Hamilton Masakadza could use their variations to stun the opponents.
They did well last year to shock hosts Sri Lanka and win the ODI series 3-2 and could prove to be a tough unit here. They have experienced batsmen like Brendan Taylor, Sikandar Raza, Malcolm Waller, Peter Moor, Craig Ervine and Cremer himself to steady the innings whether batting first or during a chase.
Hamilton Masakadza could open the innings along with S Mire, and the duo had done well in the lone win in the tri series against Sri Lanka. Taylor and Raza too have been in good nick with the bat, and they could surely keep the scoreboard ticking along with others like Waller and Moor.
Hamilton Masakadza, Solomon Mire, BRM Taylor, Sikandar Raza, Ryan Burl, Peter Moor, Malcolm Waller, Graeme Cremer, Kyle Jarvis, Tendai Chatara, Blessing Muzarabani.
While Afghanistan has its bowling strength, Zimbabwe too has good resources to keep them ahead. It could be a close contest, but we feel that Afghanistan with their balanced mix of experience and young talent and a terrific spin attack is better placed to win the first match.
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