Sharjah: The Afghanistan cricket team that qualified for the International Cricket Council World Twenty20 last week will test their might against former World Twenty20 champions, Pakistan, in a one-off contest at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Sunday.
Fresh from a morale-boosting one-day series win in South Africa, Pakistan start their tour with this T20 and then go on to meet Sri Lanka in two successive Twenty20 matches on December 11 and 13 at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium to be followed by one-dayers and Test matches.
Speaking at the unveiling of the Cool & Cool Cup, presented by Grand Midwest Hotels, Pakistan’s T20 skipper Mohammad Hafeez said: “It is a good preparation before the Sri Lanka series. We are also buoyed by a good performance in South Africa. Sharjah has been a fine venue for us, though Afghanistan knows the conditions better as they have played more matches here. The crowd support will also be equal for both the teams.”
Speaking to Gulf News, Mazhar Khan, the Administrator of the Emirates Cricket Board and secretary of the Sharjah Cricket Council, said: “We are expecting a huge turn-out of Pakistan and Afghanistan fans. It will be an exciting night of cricket as the match commences after working hours at 8pm. It is the first time that Pakistan and Afghanistan are clashing with each other in a Twenty20 International match.”
Afghanistan have already showed their skills in one-day cricket and have also qualified for the 50-over ICC World Cup in 2015 to prove they are the best among the associate member nations.
Coach Kabir Khan, who has been instrumental in lifting the standard of the team, said: “It will be an exciting and challenging contest, especially to play Pakistan in this format. If we can do well in this match it can make the world take more notice of our skills.”
Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi added: “It is important that we play strong teams like Pakistan, especially after having qualified for the World Cup. We will give our best and it will be a good competition. We have always received huge support from the crowd here and expect the same.”
In their lone one-dayer last year, Afghanistan lost to Pakistan by seven wickets but produced a spirited display. Having played in all forms of the game, Afghanistan are now stronger and fitter than in the past.
“Afghanistan is a dangerous team,” said Hafeez. “They have qualified for the 2015 World Cup and the World Twenty20 through hard work and hence we will not take them lightly.”
Pakistan will be without their strike bowler Saeed Ajmal, who will join the team only for the T20 matches against Sri Lanka due to personal reasons. “Though we will miss a world-class bowler like Ajmal, it will give an opportunity for another player to take the responsibility and prove his talent,” said Hafeez.