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Strong Start to the Asia Cup 2022 for Afghanistan

It’s five days now since the largest non-ICC tournament in cricket got underway, the Asia Cup 2022.

With three matches having been played, it’s Afghanistan and India who have come out on top.

Afghanistan have sealed their progression to the Super Four stage already, with comprehensive wins over Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. India have ensured that they have one foot into the next phase by defeating their biggest rival, Pakistan.

Here’s a look at how each of these matches unfolded, and the impact these have had considering the outright odds pre-tournament.

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Afghanistan Begin in Dominant Fashion Over Sri Lanka

The much awaited opening game of the Asia Cup 2022 ended in anticlimactic style, with Afghanistan thoroughly routing Sri Lanka.

Rated as the third-favorite to win the tournament by most bookies, Sri Lanka were underwhelming in their first effort, crumbling to 105 runs all out, off 19.4 overs.

No batters were able to score double digits, outside of Danushka Gunathilaka, Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Chamika Karunaratne.

The latter two batters combined for a partnership of 44 runs, outside of which wickets fell at regular intervals throughout the innings, seeing Rajapaksa the only Sri Lankan batter who could walk away with any semblance of self respect, having notched up 38 off 29 before being run out.

Fazalhaq Farooqi led the Afghan bowling effort, picking up 3/11 at an economy of 3.00. Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi each took two wickets, while Naveen-ul-Haq claimed one and the rest fell to run outs.

Interestingly for Afghanistan, their star spinner, Rashid Khan, remained wicketless—which is likely to be an encouraging sign of bowling depth, rather than cause for concern.

Afghanistan then chased down Sri Lanka’s total with a whopping 9.5 overs to spare, ensuring that their net run rate took a healthy boost.

Hazratullah Zazai and Rahmanullah Gurbaz combined to knock off the lion’s share of the total with an opening partnership of 83 off just 5.6 overs. Zazai ended not out, while Gurbaz fell for an impressive 40 off 18.

India Turn Up the Heat Against Pakistan

In the Asia Cup 2022’s second match, the top two teams in the tournament faced off, and it was India who came away with the honors against Pakistan.

Batting first, Pakistan struggled their way to 147 all out, off 19.5 overs. Mohammad Rizwan top scored with a run-a-ball 43 at the top of the order, while Iftikhar Ahmed made the only other notable contribution with the bat, notching up 28 off 22.

The rest were scuttled by an excellent bowling effort that saw Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Hardik Pandya scythe their way through a limp batting line up, taking seven wickets between them for 51 runs.

In reply, India built tentatively after losing both their openers cheaply. Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja each struck 35, but it was man of the match Hardik Pandya who sealed the result, slapping 33 off 17 to lead India to a five wicket win with two balls to spare.

The result means India are almost certain to qualify for the Super Four phase of the tournament, while Pakistan will be needing a comprehensive win over Hong Kong to get through on net run rate.

Afghanistan Move Through Undefeated After Win Over Bangladesh

Most recently, the third match of the Asia Cup 2022 saw Afghanistan complete their pool matches and qualify in style.

A seven wicket win over Bangladesh with nine balls remaining meant that the Afghans qualify top of their pool, and are certain to match their best ever result in Asia Cups, by reaching the Super Four.

Again, the chasing side found success in this match, with Afghanistan restricting Bangladesh to 127/7 off their 20 overs. This time Rashid Khan was amongst the action, taking 3/22, while Mujeeb Ur Rahman also took three wickets, with figures of 3/16.

Mosaddek Hossain impressed for Bangladesh with 48 not out off 31, but it ultimately was too little too late.

Afghanistan were never really troubled in the chase, initially taking their time and then accelerating towards the death. The two Zadrans, Ibrahim and Najibullah, combined for the winning partnership, with the former striking 42 off 41, and the latter ending on 43 off 17.

Afghanistan Defy Outright Odds, Pakistan Still on Track

The big mover in terms of pre-tournament outright odds is Afghanistan.

While most bookmakers are not offering live betting on the outright winner of the Asia Cup 2022 as the tournament unfolds, Afghanistan’s performance is well exceeding their initial odds of +1200. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, is falling short of their third-favorite label, with odds of +800 pre-tournament.

Despite Pakistan’s loss, they are still on track to fulfill the expectation of their pre-tournament odds. Placed in the same pool as tournament favorites, Pakistan were always likely to drop one game, but still qualify and have a second chance in the Super Four phase. With odds of +333 pre-tournament, this is looking likely.

All eyes are on the remaining group matches, before we move onto the business end of the tournament.

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