After getting off to a dominant start with a big victory in the opening game, Afghanistan will head into the second T20I against Bangladesh upbeat and in a positive frame of mind, looking to clinch the three-game series taking place in Dehradun.
In a contest that witnessed the inauguration of the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium at the Uttarakhand capital, a venue that will witness the Afghanistan cricket team in action more often in the near future, Asghar Stanikzai and company looked quite a lethal unit, especially when it came to the spin department that put a stranglehold on the Tigers, resulting in a sizeable victory.
Given how the trio of Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi accounted for six Bangladeshi wickets at miserly rates, aided by what has been a sluggish track, Afghanistan's spin trio will against hold the key, with the toss being a crucial aspect on a surface like this.
It was interesting to note Afghanistan's tactics in the opening game, especially with the way they shuffled their bowlers around. Skipper Stanikzai decided to have a spinner and a pacer operating in tandem in the first half of the innings, with pacers Shapoor Zadran and Karim Janat bowling in tandem alongside Mujeeb and Nabi.
This gave Stanikzai the freedom to utilise Rashid's experience of bowling at the death overs, the skill of which has been sharpened over the years in different T20 leagues. Given that the plan has worked for them in the past, as well as the fact that some of the very best batters in the world are still coming to grips with dealing with the mystery element in Rashid and Mujeeb's bowling, it seems unlikely that the 'hosts' are going to change their tactics for the second T20I.
As far as the visitors are concerned, skipper Shakib would probably have learnt from some of the mistakes that he had committed on Sunday, one of the most crucial of which was handing the advantage to the opposition by choosing to field. Then there’s the batting order to sort out as well, with the captain batting at one-down (as opposed to the middle-order) and Sabbir Rahman coming in at 6.
On top of that, they're without the services of their fast-bowling asset Mustafizur Rahman, who has been ruled out for four weeks with a hairline fracture in his foot, which he had picked up during Mumbai Indians' final game of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018 on 20 May. That leaves the task of containing the Afghan batsmen, especially early in the innings with Afghan opener Mohammad Shahzad guiding his side to strong starts, on the relatively inexperienced Abu Jayed and Abul Hasan, both of whom were shaky in the first T20I.
"We have to focus on various areas and make drastic improvements... They just crushed us in every department," is what Shakib was quoted as saying in response to team's failings in the first match, according to Cricbuzz. With Nazmul Islam going for runs, the visitors might be forced to bring in off-spinner Mehidy Hasan as they look to keep the series alive till Thursday.
Perhaps the biggest motivating factor for the Afghans as they look to seal the series will be the support that they will enjoy, The series opener was nearly sold out with majority crowd cheering on the Afghans.
Afghanistan opted to relax at the team hotel instead of going out for practice a day before the second T20I, like the Tigers did. Given how complete a team performance they dished out in the previous game, they will be the favourites to start off for the second T20I.
Afghanistan: Mohammad Shahzad(w), Usman Ghani, Asghar Stanikzai(c), Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi, Samiullah Shenwari, Shafiqullah Shafiq, Rashid Khan, Karim Janat, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Shapoor Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Aftab Alam, Hazratullah Zazai, Darwish Rasooli, Najeeb Tarakai
Bangladesh: Tamim Iqbal, Liton Das, Shakib Al Hasan(c), Mushfiqur Rahim(w), Mahmudullah, Sabbir Rahman, Mosaddek Hossain, Abul Hasan, Nazmul Islam, Rubel Hossain, Abu Jayed, Soumya Sarkar, Mehidy Hasan, Abu Hider Rony, Ariful Haque
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Rahmat hit two sixes and 10 fours in his 103 from 109 balls as the Afghans reached their victory target of 260 with 28 balls to spare, taking an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series.
The 19-year-old, who hit a run-a-ball 127, and some late slogging from Rashid Khan, who smashed 55 from 30 balls, took Afghanistan to an imposing 287 for nine from their 50 overs.
The series, which begins with the first match in Dhaka on 20 January, marks the return of international cricket to Bangladesh after a COVID-19 disruption.