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Confident Gulbadin expects Afghanistan batters to deliver against Sri Lanka

Afghanistan's Gulbadin Naib celebrates the wicket of Australia's Aaron Finch

Keep calm and carry on - that’s Afghanistan captain Gulbadin Naib’s message to his players ahead of their second World Cup clash against Sri Lanka in Cardiff.

Afghanistan opened their campaign with a seven-wicket defeat to reigning champions Australia, who chased down 208 thanks to half-centuries from David Warner and Aaron Finch.

Despite the result, there were plenty of positives for the Afghans who fought back from 77-5 down after losing opening batsmen Mohammad Shahzad and Hazratullah Zazai for ducks.

Najibullah Zadran was particularly impressive with the bat - and Gulbadin believes his side are more than capable of posting a big total against Sri Lanka if they can keep wickets in hand.

“My message has been one thing, just to look at the positives,” he said. “If you look, we missed out early on and then we scored 200-plus so if we have wickets in hand it could have been 300-plus.

“We need to stay on the wickets and don’t give away wickets easily, then we can have wickets in hand then we have the potential to do in the last ten overs 80-90 runs or more.

“Australia are the best side, they are a champion side, they played hard against us so one thing the guys took away is the positives if they stay in the wicket.

“Any of the teams on this kind of surface in England can score 300 as it’s not difficult to score so one thing I said to them is to play their game and stay calm, this is the main thing.”

Sri Lanka are also looking to bounce back after suffering a heavy defeat in their opening game against New Zealand, losing by ten wickets after being bowled out for just 136 runs.

But while the Cardiff pitch appears to favour seamers, Gulbadin is confident his world-class spinners, Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman, can take advantage.

“If you look at the Sri Lanka team the last two years they have been struggling in the one-day matches so we have an opportunity to do well against them,” he said.

“I hope that if we can play 50 overs, especially in the batting, maybe we can beat them, but they are also a good team and we cannot take them easy.

“If in the start the seamers are bowling well, automatically confidence goes to the spinner sides, we have good spinners with Rashid and Mujeeb and they can spin it anywhere.

“They can spin it in any kind of conditions so if we can get a good start with the bat, as they are traditionally a good bowling side, then we can do well with our bowling attack.

“I have full confidence in our spinners so we just want to build some momentum in the match, we really have momentum spinners like Rashid and Mujeeb in how they bowl.”

And although it is only early days in Afghanistan’s second World Cup appearance, Gulbadin insists he has already seen a drastic improvement in his side’s performance compared to 2015.

“If you look for the last game against Australia, we did well a lot of things there,” he said. “I think we played how we played in the last two, three years cricket, so we improve a lot of things.

“I think it's good for us to play here at this level. If you play this kind of matches only this kind of team, you take a lot of positive things and it's work in the future.”

 ©Cricket World 2019