Afghanistan vs Pakistan 1st ODI: Preview and Prediction
Two months shy of the anticipated 2023 World Cup, an array of bilateral series and other ODI clashes (Asia Cup) await in the queue. One of them is the Afghanistan versus Pakistan series which begins on Tuesday. The first ODI between the neighboring nations will be staged at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium, Hambantota, and is expected to be a thrilling one.
This will mark the first-ever bilateral series between Afghanistan and Pakistan and will take place in Sri Lanka. The first two matches will be hosted in Hambantota while the final ODI will be carried out in Colombo.
The Inzamam-ul-Haq-led Pakistan selection committee announced an 18-man squad for the upcoming series. Babar Azam, who was currently a part of the Lanka Premier League for the Colombo Strikers will captain the side with Shadab Khan as the deputy.
Tayyab Tahir, Faheem Ashraf, and Saud Shakeel have been included in the squad while Shan Masood and Ihsanullah, who were a part of the New Zealand series have been axed. However, Shakeel is not a part of the 17-member Asia Cup squad and may be considered in the travelling reserves.
Masood has been off-colored with a string of low scores in recent times, with an aggregate of 52 runs in the four ODIs that he was a part of in the calendar year 2023. Express pacer Ihsanullah is yet to be completely fit after undergoing elbow surgery and is currently rehabilitating.
Meanwhile, Faheem Ashraf is returning to national colors in the particular format after two years. He last played an ODI in July 2021 in England. Adding to it, Tayyab Tahir has been summoned on the back of commanding performances that he showcased in the past couple of years. He blazed a 108 runs knock from 71 balls in the final of the 2023 ACC Emerging Asia Cup where Pakistan Shaheen beat India A to clinch the silverware.
On the flip side, Afghanistan has named an 18-member squad for the upcoming bilateral series versus Pakistan with left-arm wrist spinner, Noor Ahmad making his return to the ODI contingent. This is a home series for Afghanistan which will be staged in Sri Lanka and entry is made free for the audience.
The fast bowling pair of Wafadar Momand and Mohammad Saleem Safi who were a part of the squad that toured Bangladesh have retained their places while Zia Ur Rahman has been trimmed for the series. He made his ODI debut recently against Bangladesh. Joining his side in the dropped category is leg spinner Izharulhaq Naveed who failed to continue his good form after the 2023 Big Bash League.
What have they done so far?
The Pakistan cricket team last played an ODI in the month of April-May during the New Zealand series. They welcomed New Zealand for two Tests, five T20Is, and as many ODIs. The Babar Azam-led group enforced a 3-1 series win against the touring party in the extended white ball format.
What’s bizarre is that the Men in Green have actually played eight 50-over contests with the Black Caps in the calendar year 2023 and in the past year (approx.), they have participated in ODIs against New Zealand and Netherlands only. This speaks volumes about the frequency of 50-over cricket we have witnessed from the Pakistan cricket team.
On the other hand, Afghanistan toured Bangladesh to test themselves across formats in the month of July. They were on the receiving end of a shambolic loss in the One-off Test but did thrust back with a 2-1 ODI series victory.
The Hashmatullah Shahidi-led unit has been playing ODI matches now and then in the past year. They battled with Zimbabwe and enforced a clean sweep in June 2022. Right after, the Atlans played a three-match ODI series against Sri Lanka, once in November 2022 and then in June 2023.
The first series was a draw where both teams won a game. The next series saw the Lankan Lions claim a 2-1 victory. The Afghan side is set to commence on-field action after a month’s break since the Bangladesh tour and will head towards the mega events that are stacked up.
Afghanistan and Pakistan have indulged in ODI matches on only four occasions. Pakistan has outnumbered their counterparts with a clean sheet of 4-0. The last time when both sides locked horns, was during the 2019 Cricket World Cup at Headingley.
Fazalhaq Farooqi (Afghanistan): The left-arm fast bowler has been a revelation for the Afghanistan pace bowling department in the last couple of years. He has matured into a spearhead and has extracted 16 wickets in his last 10 matches with an economy of 5.18.
He bagged eight wickets from three matches during their recently concluded Bangladesh, and was adjudged the player of the series. There should be no doubt why he is one of the key players to watch out for the Afghan Altans.
Babar Azam (Pakistan): When it comes to performance, who is better than the skipper himself for Pakistan? Babar Azam recently struck a century in the Lanka Premier League for the Colombo Strikers and looked in good touch. He has had a recent taste of the conditions in Sri Lanka and one can bank on him to pile up runs for fun. In addition, the Pakistan captain has an average of 55.50 in ODIs against Afghanistan.
Afghanistan: Ibrahim Zadran, Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi ©, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi, Azmatullah Omarzai, Rashid Khan, Noor Ahmad, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Fazalhaq Farooqi
Pakistan: Fakhar Zaman, Abdullah Shafique, Babar Azam ©, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Iftikhar Ahmed, Agha Salman, Shadab Khan, Muhammad Nawaz, Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah, Haris Rauf
The Pakistani side possesses a good balance in their line-up and can demolish any opposition on their day. Also, a lot of their players have been a part of the LPL 2023 and this exposure is likely to benefit the. While the Afghans are not a side to be written off, past records suggest that they fail to make a consistent run.