England’s cricketer Alex Hales has warned England not to underestimate Afghanistan in their opening T20 World Cup fixture on Saturday, saying they are “a dangerous side”.
Speaking to the UK’s Guardian, Hales said the combination of Afghanistan’s powerful batting and the spin of Rashid Khan, ranked No 2 in the world in the format by the ICC, makes them one of the most difficult opponents they will face.
“They are a dangerous side,” he said. “Any team in this World Cup is dangerous but particularly Afghanistan. They’ve got some explosive batters, guys who really tee off from ball one, so it’s going to be a tough game.
“They’re a team that’s improving rapidly and have some skilful operators, and they have two of the best spinners in the world in Rashid and Mujeeb [Ur Rahman],” he said.
Rashid ranks third on the all-time list of T20 international wicket-takers with 118, despite having played just 71 matches, fewer than any other member of the top 10.
“He has got the ability to spin the ball both ways at decent pace, he is very difficult to get down the pitch to, and he is a world-class fielder and batter as well,” Hales said. “He is a full T20 player.
Hales’ comments came just hours ahead of the start of the Super 12 phase of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, which gets underway Saturday in Australia.
On the opening day of the Super 12 stage, ODI World Champions England will kick-start their campaign against Afghanistan, which will see both sides hoping for a win to get a head start.
England is undoubtedly one of the favorites to win the tournament, especially after their recent T20I series triumphs against Pakistan and Australia.
However, Mohammad Nabi’s squad are no longer the underdogs as they have taken significant strides in world cricket, especially in the shortest format of the game. In addition, the Afghan players have been part of top-notch franchises around the world in the past few years.
After a scare earlier this week, star batter Rahmanullah Gurbaz has been deemed fit to play. This was after being hit on the foot during a warm up match against Pakistan.
Commentators have meanwhile noted that while Australian pitches won’t offer much for spinners, Rashid Khan will still prove to be the Afghan trump card.
With his vast experience, Rashid will look to bamboozle batters in the mega event and hopefully help secure a win for the Afghan team.