Currently, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka find themselves on either side of a seesaw; one looks skyward, while the other has won only three of their last 16 completed international games. Yet, such has been Sri Lanka’s prowess in global events that the contest is still tipped in their favour.
Afghanistan came through the first round of the World T20 unscathed, overpowering their closest competitors Zimbabwe with an ease that caught the attention of the rest of Group 1. More impressively, Afghanistan have adapted, ditching their gung-ho approach for a calculated assault in conditions that will only increase their potency. The bowling has been solid, and captain Asghar Stanikzai has used his available resources astutely. Mohammad Nabi, the best of their host of spinning allrounders, has stood out with both bat and ball.
Another fascinating aspect in the qualifier was Afghanistan’s attitude on the field. Their discernibly animated reactions and yelps of frustration to a fumble, more often than not, added to the pressure rather than being a motivating factor for the fielders. Afghanistan came close to beating Sri Lanka in the 2015 World Cup, and they may never find the opposition more vulnerable.
Sri Lanka seem to have, unfortunately for the tournament, carried their Asia Cup form into the World T20 warm-up games. Their last win was against UAE, a closely-fought match in the Asia Cup, but where is the next one coming from?
Sri Lanka’s win drought recently is directly proportional to the form of their best players. Post the retirement of Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakkara, now a selector after a major revamp, many tipped the likes of Angelo Mathews, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Lasith Malinga to carry the torch till the next generation of young blood came through. Neither have the youngsters shone through consistently nor has that torch been supported.
However, underestimate a Sri Lanka side at an ICC competition at your own peril. They might just be spurred by the reminder of home by Kolkata’s spin-friendly nature. (Courtesy Cricinfo)