Considering it was Afghanistan’s first ODI win over an ICC full member the team’s celebrations were surprisingly muted. A group of Afghan fans in the stands looked rather more animated. Mohammad Nabi and his boys were a lot more business-like. Afghanistan beat Bangladesh by 32 runs in their Asia Cup fixture at Fatullah Cricket Ground on Saturday to create history.
“We’d to justify our participation on the big stage, and this is a historic moment,” said middle-order batsman Asghar Stanikzai, who scored 90*, as he dedicated this win to his countrymen.
In fact, Afghanistan could have won with a bonus point after the hosts lost four wickets for four runs inside eight balls during the chase. From 161 for four in 38.5 overs, they were reduced to 165 for eight in 40.1 overs. Still, 38 runs were needed to deny Afghanistan the bonus point. Ziaur Rahaman’s (41, 22 balls) desperate hitting saved Bangladesh from ignominy, but once Nabi brought himself back to the attack and cleaned up the danger man, Afghanistan’s win became a formality. Bangladesh folded for 222 in 47.5 overs, chasing 255. Nabi took three wickets with his off-spin, fast bowler Hamid Hassan took two before he limped off with a thigh injury. His new ball partner Shapoor Zardan too chipped in with a couple of wickets. But Stanikzai and Samiullah Shenwari were the chief architects of this landmark result.
They added 164 runs for the sixth wicket and lifted their team from 90 for five at one stage to 254 in 50 overs. Bangladesh spinners were in full control when Stanikzai and Shenwari paired up. Their response was careful rebuilding, followed by mighty hitting. Shenwari was the man who took the challenge to the opposition, clobbering successive boundaries off left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak in the 40th over. Stanikzai joined in and then there was mayhem in the final 10 overs.
Medium pacer Rubel Hossain was clattered all over the park for 40 runs in his last four overs. Razzak and Arafat Sunny gave away 25 and 19 runs respectively in their last two overs. Rahaman too was taken to the cleaners. The two Afghan batters hit 12 fours and four sixes in the last 10 overs to turn the game on its head. Shenwari was run out for 81 (94 balls) but Stanikzai remained unbeaten on 90 in 103 deliveries. Their partnership demoralised Bangladesh.
In the chase, Bangladesh lost wickets at the wrong time. After two early wickets Mominul Haque (50) and captain Mushfiqur Rahim (23) added 67 runs for the third but both fell in quick succession. Nasir Hossain and Naeem Islam forged a 73-run partnership for the fifth wicket, but the asking continued…