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Tigers out to conquer Afghanistan in Asia Cup opener

Bangladesh vowed to make a winning start to their T20 Asia Cup journey when they take on Afghanistan in their opening game at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium tomorrow (Tuesday).

The match which starts at 8 pm as per Bangladesh Time will be aired live on Bangladesh Television (BTV), T Sports and Nagorik Television.

Afghanistan had already sent an ominous sign, crushing Sri Lanka by eight wickets in their first game. The margin of their victory however exactly couldn't show how dominating their victory was against the Lankan side but the manner of victory indeed made Bangladeshi fans shivering down the spine.

But Bangladesh seemed not to be fazed by the Afghans juggernaut. In fact, they remained determined to achieve their goal as they looked groomed up well under Shakib Al Hasan's captaincy.

"Who is the better team will be proved in the field," said Bangladesh allrounder Mehidy Hasan Miraz, showing the sign of growing confidence.

"When all play well in all departments, we normally win the game.
Everyone in our team is in a good zone to prove themselves, so we are hopeful of a good result."

As Shakib began his third term as T20 captain of Bangladesh, he will play his 100th match in this format as only the third batter from Tigers den after former captain Mahmudullah Riyad and Mushfiqur Rahim.

No doubt, he will try to make his landmark game a memorable one. There is additional stat to inspire captain Shakib also. He is already the highest wicket-taker (121 wickets) of T20 format in the world but batting-wise he is in second spot amongst the Bangladesh batter with 2010 runs behind Mahmudullah Riyad. He needed just 61 runs to topple the former skipper as highest run-getter of Bangladesh.

Shakib was given the captaincy after Bangladesh were going through a rough patch in this format following their disappointing T20 World Cup outing last year. After the showcase event they won just two matches out of 10, including their first ever bilateral T20 series loss to Zimbabwe.

Shakib earlier said nothing can be changed overnight but Bangladesh will try to play the format the way it should be played. The new captain indeed pointed out at scoring at faster pace, which Bangladesh lacked to remain a vulnerable side in the shortest format of cricket.

The Bangladesh practice game and training module demonstrated the fact that they are more focusing on skill hitting, six hitting unlike the previous time. Even the batters came up with the explanation that they are able to hit big sixes as the Bangladesh people blamed them for not playing aggressive brand of cricket following their losing streak in this format.

"The first match is always important," Miraz said. "We are hopeful of making a winning start. We are not focused on who the opponent is, we are just focusing on our game."

The Afghanistan batters however had no problem hitting sixes. Indeed their six hitting skills indeed won them the match against a more powerful Lanka side in the first game. And their T20 record against Bangladesh also is very rich as they won five matches in the nine encounters. Bangladesh won three while one match was abandoned.

In this year, the two teams played two matches at Bangladesh soil with both winning one game each. The game that Bangladesh won this year came in a slower pitch, meaning that if the Sharjah pitch remains slow, Bangladesh would have the advantage over Afghans big hitters. Probably this is the fact that keeps Bangladesh calm despite Afghanistan's dangerous T20 form.

Ahead of the tournament, Bangladesh lost some of the key players like Liton Das, Hasan Mahmud and Nurul Hasan Sohan due to injury, specially the loss of Liton created a serious loophole in their opening slot.

The team management had already hinted they will play Anamul Haque Bijoy and Naim Sheikh as openers even though both are blamed not to be a great accelerator for T20 cricket. But the team management clarified that they have been given specific roles on how they should play. The Asia Cup indeed will show the brand of cricket Bangladesh would like to play under the captaincy of Shakib, who looks keen to usher a new T20 era.

Bangladesh: Shakib Al Hasan (captain), Anamul Haque Bijoy, Mushfiqur Rahim, Afif Hossain (vice-captain), Mosaddek Hossain, Mahmudullah Riyad, Mahedi Hasan, Mohammad Saifuddin, Naim Sheikh, Mustafizur Rahman, Nasum Ahmed, Sabbir Rahman, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Ebadot Hossain, Parvez Hossain Emon, Taskin Ahmed.

Afghanistan: Mohammad Nabi (captain), Najibullah Zadran (vice-captain), Afsar Zazai (WK), Azmatullah Omarzai, Farid Ahmad Malik, Fazal Haq Farooqi, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Hazratullah Zazai, Ibrahim Zadran, Karim Janat, Mujib ur Rahman, Najibullah Zadran, Naveen ul Haq, Noor Ahmad, Rahmanullah Gurbaz (WK), Rashid Khan and Samiullah Shinwari.

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