Asia Cup preview: Afghanistan

While Bangladesh have lost ground, Afghanistan are determined to be world cricket's next big thing.

<b>Captain:</b> Mohammad Nabi<br><b>Coach:</b> Kabir Khan<br><b>Asia Cup Best:</b> First time entrants

<b>Overview</b><br>While Bangladesh have lost ground, Ireland and Afghanistan are determined to be world cricket's next big thing. Opportunity, this month, knocks for the latter to impress against their burgeoning sub-continental arrivals. Afghans are ready to show how they qualified for March's World Twenty20 and why they are worthy of a berth in next year's World Cup – all amid plenty of war-torn and political upheaval.

<b>Key Batsman</b><br>All-rounder <b>Rahmat Shah</b> is just 20 years old, and characterises the youth, exuberance and steel of the developing cricketing nation. A half-centurion in a key Intercontinental Cup clash against the Irish and the recipient of a solid stretch of form at domestic level lately, late February and early March will bring a superb platform for the youngster to show his talents boast long-term value.

<b>Key Bowler</b><br>Veteran seamer <b>Hamid Hassan</b> has seen this all before, and has remained in favour during a crucial period in Afghanistan's cricket history. With three major International Cricket Council tournaments on offer during the next 12 months, Hassan will have the chance to cap the twilight of his career with due limelight.

<b>Likely Benchwarmer</b><br>The 25-year-old <b>Noor Ali Zadran</b> recently returned from injury, before which inconsistency lined his stay in the batting order. With just one half-century to show for his last 10 appearances, it's unlikely Zadran will find a place in a first-choice XI demanding better.

<b>Cricket365's Prediction</b><br>Afghanistan have accomplished plenty in just graduating to this ODI sub-continental showpiece, and arguably have bigger fish to fry come the World Twenty20. They'll surely challenge in patches, but not consistently enough to beat superior opposition. <b>Perhaps they'll surprise Bangladesh</b>.

<b>They Said:</b> "We are back at full strength now. Hamid Hassan is back so is Dowlat Zadran. Nowroz Mangal is back to scoring runs. We have every opportunity to become the champion." – captain <b>Mohammad Nabi</b>.

<b>Squad:</b> Mohammad Shahzad, Noor Ali Zadran, Karim Sadiq, Nowroz Mangal, Asghar Stanikzai, Mohammad Nabi (captain), Samiullah Shenwari, Rahmat Shah, Mirwais Ashraf, Fazal Niazai, Hamza Hotak, Hamid Hassan, Shapoor Zadran, Dawlat Zadran, Najeeb Zadran.

<b>Fixtures</b><br>27 February: v Pakistan, Fatullah<br>1 March: v Bangladesh, Fatullah<br>3 March: v Sri Lanka, Mirpur<br>5 March: v India, Mirpur