In two weeks Afghanistan will follow Ireland into the ranks of Test playing nations, when they make their bow in the prestigious format against India in Bengalaru. Ahead of that much anticipated game, the Afghans last assignment as a non-Test team will be a three match Twenty20 International series against Bangladesh, which gets underway on Sunday 3rd June.
All three games, with the second and third matches taking place on Tuesday and Thursday, are being held in Afghanistan’s defacto home in India. These will be the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Dehardun’s first ever internationals having opened in December 2016. It will become the 51st stadium in India to host official international games.
Above: The Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Dehardun makes its debut international appearance in the series.
The series also marks the first bilateral engagement between the two countires. In fact, they have only ever met once before in a Twenty20 International – Bangladesh running out the winners in a first round game at the 2014 World Twenty20 tournament in Dhaka.
As well as “home” advantage, form in the shortest format would also appear to be on Afghanistan’s side heading into the series. They have won two of their last three series – in Sharjah against Zimbabwe in February this year and against Ireland at Greater Noida in India last year. Sandwiched between those wins was a 3-0 series loss to the West Indies in the Caribbean.
For their part, Bangladesh lost to India in the final of their most recent tournament – the Nidahas Twenty20 Tri-Series held in Sri Lanka – and have in fact only won four of their last twenty T20 Internationals. That poor form sees them ranked a lowly tenth in the format, compared to Afghanistan’s eighth.
So a keenly fought series awaits. There are a few significant milestones in reach for players of both sides:
Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladesh)
The Tigers’ captain Shakib is ranked third in the world for T20I all-rounders, and is in sight of a very significant all-round record in this series.
Sitting on 498 international wickets across all formats, he needs just two to bring up 500. If he does, he will join a very exclusive club of just two other players (Shahid Afridi of Pakistan and South Africa legend Jacques Kallis) to notch up both 10,000 international runs and 500 wickets.
Shakib will also be playing his 300th International for Bangladesh across formats in the first game.
Tamim Iqbal (Bangladesh)
By strange coincidence, Bangladesh’s opening batsman is also playing his 300th international in the first game -although not all of his have come wearing the green cap/helmet of Bangladesh, having also played a number of times in the last twelve months for the ICC World XI. Indeed he played for the ICC representative side earlier this week as a teammate of Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan who he now lines up against.
For both teams he has scored a total of 1,442 Twenty20 International career runs, so will be looking for just 58 ore to bring up 1,500.
Rashid Khan (Afghanistan)
It’s hard to believe legspinner Rashid Khan is still a teenager, such has been his impact in international cricket since he made his Afghanistan debut as a 16-year old in 2015. Sought after the world over in franchise cricket, Khan has taken 149 international wickets for Afghanistan and the ICC World XI combined, and 49 in Twenty20s – so needs just one more to bring up the 150 / 50 respectively.
Mohammad Shahzad (Afghanistan)
The Afghans’ flamboyant keeper-batsman will be looking to make big strides up the rankings of international Twenty20 cricket’s all time run-scorers.
His 1816 career runs in the format currently have him in eighth place in the world, but 74 runs in the series will see him rocket up to fourth – leaving South African JP Duminy (7th on 1822), India’s Rohit Sharma (6th, 1852), Shoaib Malik of Pakistan (5th, 1887) and Sri Lankan Tilakaratne Dilshan (4th, 1889) in his wake.
Mohammad Nabi (Afghanistan)
Allrounder Nabi can make similar moves up the bowling charts. His 61 T20I wickets are enough for 10th place worldwide currently, but six more scalps in Dehardun will see him march up to sixth.
New Zealand’s Tim Southee (9th, 62 wickets), Englishman Stuart Broad (8th, 65) and the Sri Lankan pair Ajantha Mendis and Nuwan Kulasekara (Joint 6th, 66) are the men in his sights.
Sabbir Rahman (Bangladesh)
Currently having 893, batsman Sabbir needs 107 runs to become the fourth Bangladeshi (after Shakib, Tamin and Mushfiqur Rahim) to bring up 1,000 Twebty20 international runs.
There are two uncapped players in the Afghanistan squad who may make their Twenty20 debuts if chosen – Harzat Zazai and Darwish Rasool could become the 39th and 40th men to represent their country in the shortest format.