Unbeaten India meet spirited Afghans

After qualifying for the final of the Asia Cup, Rohit Sharma and his men will be aiming to test their bench strength in the dead rubber against Afghanistan today at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.

Afghanistan have put up a high-spirited show in this year’s Asia Cup. After topping Group B with victories over Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, the Afghans gave Pakistan and Bangladesh a run for their money in the Super 4 but were knocked out of the tournament with defeats in the last over.

Afghanistan will fancy their chances if India decide to let loose. Before both the teams lock horns, here’s a look at what one could expect from this encounter.

From the Indian dressing room:

Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have amassed 596 runs between them in this Asia Cup. The kind of starts that they have provided, has India helped chase targets in their previous three encounters.

But with nothing to lose and KL Rahul on the bench, India could afford to rest Dhawan who has had a hectic few weeks. Additionally, India wouldn’t mind batting first too just to give all their batsmen a run and test their bowlers while defending targets before the mega final.

Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik and MS Dhoni form a solid middle order. If the management gives Manish Pandey an opportunity will be interesting to see. India also has Kedar Jadhav at 6 and an untested Ravindra Jadeja at 7.

As far as India’s bowling is concerned, Rohit Sharma’s men, the only unbeaten team in this year’s Asia Cup, could look at resting Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and a wrist-spinner – either Kuldeep or Chahal to accommodate Khaleel Ahmed, Deepak Chahar and Siddharth Kaul.

From the Afghanistani dressing room:

India defeated Afghanistan in the only meeting between the two of them back in 2014 but the latter team has improved leaps and bounds since then. The spin triplet of Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur-Rehman and Mohammad Nabi has the ability to contain the run-flow and pick wickets at regular intervals to frustrate the opposition.

Their batting mainly relies on Mohammad Shahzad at the top and Rahmat Shah at number three. Shahzad found form against Bangladesh where he scored a solid half-century but threw his wicket away. The dependable Rahmat Shah has been among the runs and will hope to come good when he takes guard against India too.

Hashmatullah Shahidi has been their real star with the bat so far. He scored a sensational 97, batting his way through against Pakistan and came up with 71-vital runs against Bangladesh that eventually went in vain during the chase.

Afghanistan will be pinning their hopes on Shahidi to deliver the goods one last time against India too. Asghar Afghan, their skipper, at number five, has been among runs too. The experienced middle-order batsman can be a threat considering his abilities to hit the long ball once he gets his eye in.

We all know what Mohammad Nabi is capable of when it comes to scoring quick runs. Apart from these players, Afghanistan have enough depth in their batting. Samiullah Shenwari, Gulbadin Naib and Rashid Khan are all capable of hitting meaty blows but their real test will be when they face a quality bowling side at the final stages.

Aghanistan has stuck around their strength to defend totals but displayed character while chasing 250 against Bangladesh but the Asghar led side will certainly look to cause an upset and leave for home with a win over favourites India in the tournament.