Dubai — Afghanistan will be banking on their Rashid Khan-led spin attack to do wonders, while Zimbabwe will be looking to take advantage of home conditions when they turn out in next month’s ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier.
The two sides were involved in a one-day international (ODI) series earlier this month, with Afghanistan completing a 4-1 series win in Sharjah on Monday, their spinners once again coming to the fore and sending out a warning signal to others in the upcoming competition.
Leg-spinner, Rashid, who was already a hot property in limited overs cricket, shot up eight places to take the joint-top position in the MRF Tyres ICC ODI Player Rankings along with India pace bowler, Jasprit Bumrah after taking 16 wickets in the series. Rashid became the youngest ever male player at the top of the rankings and also gained 11 slots to grab the fourth position for all-rounders.
Rashid’s ascendancy was not the lone positive for their spinners, as upcoming Mujeeb Zadran, who was part of their squad at the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup in New Zealand last month, moved up 90 places to take 67th position with 12 wickets in the series including a five-wicket haul in the fourth match.
Experienced all-rounder, Mohammad Nabi, who gained seven slots to reach 11th position after taking five wickets during the series with his off-spin bowling, was buoyant about the prospects of their spin attack.
“We feel very proud to be playing in the qualifying round and will hopefully qualify for the World Cup. We have confidence in our spin attack. It is important for the whole nation that we qualify for the World Cup because that is the only thing that gets them happiness,” he said.
For Zimbabwe, Sikandar Raza, Brendan Taylor, Hamilton Masakadza and Craig Ervine are all capable of delivering with the bat while some leg-spin bowling from captain, Graeme Cremer, medium-fast stuff from Tendai Chatara and useful off-spin bowling from Sikandar Raza could prove useful in front of home crowds.
Cremer acknowledged that the tournament would not be easy, but opined that the home conditions could give them the edge.
“It’s very, very special for us to have such a big tournament in our country. It will be a tough tournament, the associate teams have come a long way, but hopefully being in our home conditions, we will qualify. With the home crowd behind us, we are confident about our chances. It will be very special for me to captain the side and take the team through to the World Cup,” he said.
Zimbabwe: Graeme Cremer (captain), Ryan Burl, Tendai Chatara, Tendai Chisoro, Craig Ervine, Kyle Jarvis, Hamilton Masakadza, Solomon Mire, Peter Moor, Tarisai Musakanda, Blessing Muzarabani, Sikandar Raza, Brendan Taylor, Brian Vitori, Malcolm Waller
Coach: Heath Streak.