Sri Lanka will be looking for a much-improved show, especially with the bat when they face Afghanistan in the 3rd match of the Asia Cup 2018. They were outclassed by Bangladesh in the opening game of the tournament as their batsmen looked at sea and they have to quickly gather their act in a must-win game against Afghanistan.
On the other hand, Lasith Malinga had an excellent outing as he bagged four wickets on his return to International cricket. Malinga was bang on the money with his lines and lengths and found bit of swing early on to rattle the top-order batsmen. But Sri Lankan bowlers allowed the opposition to settle in as was the case with Mushfiqur Rahim’s innings. Bangladesh, at one point were 203/8 but they recovered and posted a total of 261.
Their struggles with the bat can be highlighted by the fact that Upul Tharanga top-scored for them with 27, while only two other batters crossed the 20-run mark. Their batsmen were dismissed cheaply which is something that they’ll need to talk about in team meetings and remind themselves to stay on the crease and score big runs.
Their opponents, Afghanistan, have won a couple of ODI series against Ireland and Zimbabwe, and they also emerged triumphant in the World Cup Qualifiers. Rahmat Shah, Mohammad Shahzad, Najibullah Zadran and Mohammad Nabi have all made 300-plus runs this season in ODIs. Shah was also in good nick in the series versus Ireland, where he put up decent performances on dodgy tracks.
The Afghan spin twins, Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rehman, are expected to make an impact on slow tracks in the UAE. Sharafuddin Ashraf and Mohammad will also add some value to the spin-duo of Rashid and Mujeeb. Afghanistan may be tempted to bolster the pace attack by picking both Aftab Alam and Wafadar as the ball does nip around under lights.
Lasith Malinga will be Sri Lanka's player to keep an eye on, as his performance in the game against Bangladesh was outstanding. Despite returning to International cricket after a year, he was spot on with his right lines and lengths and found considerable amount of swing to create problems for the batsmen.
One of the premier T20 players in the world, Khan holds the record for the fewest number of games required to reach 100 ODI wickets. Rashid has a knack for ripping through teams' lower orders and in what is expected to be a tight group, that might prove vital in games that go down to the wire.
Angelo Mathews (c), Amila Aponso, Dushmantha Chameera, Akila Dananjaya, Niroshan Dickwella, Shehan Jayasuriya, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga, Kusal Mendis, Dilruwan Perera, Kusal Perera, Thisara Perera, Kasun Rajitha, Dasun Shanaka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Upul Tharanga
Asghar Afghan (c), Javed Ahmadi, Munir Ahmad, Yamin Ahmadzai, Aftab Alam, Ihsanullah, Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Mohammad Shahzad, Samiullah Shenwari, Sayed Shirzad, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Najibullah Zadran