Fan-favourite Najibullah Zadran has arguably made a case to bat higher than his traditional role at six or seven with a stunning unbeaten century against Ireland at Dehradun in the second ODI back in March. In Afghan domestic cricket, where he generally bats around five for Boost Region, he averages a remarkable 124 this season, with 248 runs coming at a more-than-brisk strike rate of 145.
Yet Afghanistan may well prefer to keep him where he is in the role of second-innings finisher or first-innings punisher down the order, following the logic that it if ain’t broke don’t fix it. A genuine 360-player in the modern mould, the 26 year-old left-hander packs a surprising punch into his wiry frame and boasts every shot in the book, together with a few in what might be labelled the AB-Appendices.
With Najib acting as a lurking sting in the tail, Afghanistan’s opponents will be less able to rely on mere scoreboard pressure for wickets up the order, nor feel confident pursuing a policy of containment. Given Zadran’s ability to find boundaries at the death in occasionally outrageous fashion (that flailing, falling, one-handed six inside-out over cover off of the United Arab Emirates’ Mohammad Shahzad at the 2017 Desert T20 springs to mind) a demanding required run rate is not enough to count Afghanistan out, at least while Najibullah’s at the crease.
Najibullah is a dangerous lower-order hitter, capable of scoring all around the ground.