Saturday's match between Afghanistan and Pakistan will be the 4th ODI clash between the two sides Getty

Pakistan and Afghanistan share a curious history. The two countries go back in time with deep cultural links, and each nation even features among the other's largest trading partners. Afghanistan's cricketing story too is weaved intricately with Pakistan. Many of their current cricketers picked up the sport in Peshawar with Pakistan Cricket Board even organising 'A' tours and and allowing its neighbours' players to train at their National Cricket Academy in Lahore.

But the strained geopolitical equations have spilled over to the cricketing front over the last two years. Afghanistan cancelled a round of friendly games with their neighbours after a bomb blast at Kabul in May 2017 with PCB hitting back by severing ties with ACB over their disparaging statements. Afghanistan have since allied with the Board of Control for Cricket in India, shifting their base to India where they've played their two Test matches so far.

Afghanistan skipper Gulbadin Naib came just short of playing the role of a diplomat on Friday, but stated that strong bilateral ties between nations can mend even out-of-cricket relationships. "Yeah. If you look at our cricket, we learnt a lot of cricket in Pakistan, We also played cricket in Pakistan," Naib said. "Sport is one thing [with] which you can keep good relationship with any other country. I'm hoping... not only with Pakistan but India, Sri Lanka, the other countries... we want good cricket, we want more matches to build our cricket.

"Pakistan is our neighbour country, so it's very good for us to play a lot of cricket with [them]. Also if you play a lot of cricket, it's good for country's relationship. So I'm hoping in the upcoming years we'll play a lot of cricket with them," he said.

This strained relationship with Pakistan has meant that Saturday's league stage encounter at Headingley will only be the fourth ODI clash between the two sides. Two of the games were played at the Asia Cup (2014, 2018) and another game in Sharjah in 2012 - Afghanistan's first ODI against a full member nation. The two teams met in a warm-up game at Bristol before this World Cup, which Afghanistan won by 3 tickets. Naib's team, however, have not been able to build on their sprightly start, losing each of their seven games so far in the tournament proper.

Naib attributed his team's failure to a poor beginning, when his spin-heavy attack was neutralised by the early-summer grassy tracks in the UK. "We beat Pakistan in the warm-up game and we played good cricket there. Conditions were similar and in our favour, it was good for our spinners. But after that we played four games, the pitches became totally different. We practised on different wickets to the ones we ended up playing on.

"We were very excited when we qualified and it was a dream for Afghanistan to participate in the World Cup, that has come true in this tournament. Everyone was hoping a lot for the team. And if you start well, any journey goes well; we didn't start well and a lot of things have gone wrong in our journey. We didn't give it our best this tournament, but if you look at the last three games, we've played well. Everything is totally different and we didn't expect the pitches to be like this. We did something wrong there but we are hopeful; we still have two games and we need to finish this competition on a good note."