Eyes on bigger prizes as Pakistan and Afghanistan begin ODI series

Pakistan face Afghanistan in a three-match one-day international series in Sri Lanka starting on Tuesday, with skipper Babar Azam seeing it as good preparation for the Asia Cup and World Cup.

The first bilateral ODI series between the two teams will be followed by the six-nation Asia Cup, in Sri Lanka and Pakistan, beginning on August 30 and the World Cup in India from October 5.

It is a home series for Afghanistan who cannot stage international cricket in their own country because of security fears.

“These three matches are a good opportunity for us to test our players in the match situation,” Azam told AFP.

Azam is the top-ranked ODI batsman and leads a strong side that also boasts openers Fakhar Zaman and Imamul Haq — ranked three and four, respectively.

They are backed up by a potent pace attack of Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf.

Afghanistan has world-class spinner Rashid Khan fit again after he withdrew from The Hundred competition in England.

“Afghanistan have developed into a good side,” said Azam of a team which beat Bangladesh 2-1 in an ODI series last month.

“We are not going to take these matches lightly,” said Azam, despite Pakistan having won all four ODIs against Afghanistan since the countries first met in 2012.

“We have good players who can deal with spin bowling so it is going to be an exciting series,” Azam said.

Afghanistan are captained by batsman Hashmatullah Shahidi and have new faces in fast bowlers Abdul Rahman, Mohammad Saleem Safi and Wafadar Momand.

Tuesday’s match is being played in Hambantota, with the remaining two in Colombo on Thursday and Saturday.

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