Sri Lanka’s men have one player with more than 100 Tests
to his name, another with 88
, a third with 76
, and another with 51
. All Afghanistan have ever played are seven Tests
, and are likely to field debutants on Friday. It doesn’t sound like much of a contest, but if there’s one team that can spring surprises seemingly out of nowhere, Afghanistan might be it.
“If it comes to experience, their team is more experienced than ours,” captain Hashmatullah Shahidi
said on the eve of his team’s first-ever Test against Sri Lanka. “They have a lot of guys who have played Test cricket for more than ten years. I will still not say we are not good enough. We are brave, and we are ready for every kind of challenge.”
Not just brave, but in the recent past, on roughly equal footing with Sri Lanka, in ODIs at least. Afghanistan won two of the five completed ODIs these teams have played in Sri Lanka since 2022
. And then, in the World Cup came the kicker – a seven-wicket thrashing in Pune
, which helped push Sri Lanka out of contention for the Champions Trophy in 2025, a tournament Afghanistan have qualified for.
“Of course, we can win against Sri Lanka,” Shahidi said. “I’m not going to sit here and think negatively about my team. As a nation, we are strong people, and as a cricket nation, we showed everyone recently at the World Cup what we could do. In Tests also, we have good, talented guys. Everyone in the dressing room should be thinking about how to win in Sri Lanka. We’re not just here to play.”
“Rashid is the best bowler and we will miss him until he comes to the team. But we have more spinners in the team. We have three more guys who are in the 15. We have Zia-ur-Rehman
, Zahir Khan
, and Qais Ahmad
. They’re also good for the future of Afghanistan. They are hard workers. I hope these three who will get a chance tomorrow will do well for us.”
At this stage of their Test journey, Afghanistan also have a lopsidedness to their attack. Where spinners have taken 78 of their wickets at an average of 30.21, seamers have claimed only 24, at an average of 37.04. This is where, for Shahidi, the greatest improvements can be made.
“If we play [and get] more opportunities we will know more about the game. In the last game
we were struggling with the fast-bowling department. If we want to be a good Test nation we need to have fast bowlers. This tour we have guys who can bowl quick. We brought them here with us and hopefully, they play well in this game. We are trying our best to improve on that. This is a good opportunity.”