A stunning century by Mohammad Shahzad and ruthless bowling by Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi earned Afghanistan an unforgettable tie against India in the Asia Cup.
Playing in his 76th ODI, Mohammad Shahzad played a priceless inning while none of his top-order partners managed to reach double figures. Shahzad and opening partner Javed Ahmadi added 65 for the first wicket before Ahmadi was stumped having contributed just five runs to the partnership off 30 balls.
Three more wickets fell rapidly to leave Afghanistan on 82 for four after 15.3 overs, after which Shahzad enjoyed another 50-run partnership, this time with number six batsman Gulbadin Naib, who contributed 15 runs off 46 balls.
Mohammad Nabi joined Shahzad and the pair added 48 for the sixth wicket before Shahzad finally fell with Afghanistan’s score on 180, the opener’s contribution being 124 off just 116 balls. His blistering innings was the fifth time he had reached three figures in an ODI and included 11 fours and seven sixes, contributing almost 70% of his side’s runs while he was at the crease.
Nabi went to his fifty before falling for 64 off 56 balls (three fours, four sixes) in the 48th over, and Afghanistan’s innings closed on 252-8, with Ravindra Jadeja (3-46, econ 4.60) and Kuldeep Yadav (2-38, econ 3.80) the chief wicket-takers.
India gave KL Rahul (60 off 66 balls, five fours, one six) and Ambati Rayudu (57 off 49 balls, four fours, four sixes) the chance to open, and the pair raced to 110 off 17 overs before Rayudu was caught by Najibullah Zadran off Mohammad Nabi, with Rahul following him back into the pavilion three overs later.
Dinesh Karthik kept the board rolling by scoring 44 off 66 balls (four fours), but India lost five wickets for 84 runs in 19 overs to give Afghanistan hope of clinching a historic victory.
The in-form Rashid Khan once again bowled superbly, conceding just four runs off the 48th over to leave India needing 13 off the last two overs for victory. Aftab Alam restricted the Indian batsmen to just six runs off the 49th over, but what an over it was, as two Indian batsmen were run out thanks to brilliant fielding by Afghanistan.
With seven needed off the last over bowled by dangerman Rashid Khan – and just one wicket in hand – Jadeja failed to score off the first delivery before slog-sweeping the second ball for four, the ball landing just centimetres away from being a six. Two singles followed to level the scores and, with two balls left, Jadeja mistimed a pull stroke off a loose delivery from Rashid Khan and was caught at midwicket as the Afghanistan fielders celebrated an unforgettable performance.
Rashid Khan was once again brilliant with the ball in picking up 2-41 (econ 4.16), and he was backed up by the equally economical Mohammad Nabi (2-40, econ 4.00) and Aftab Alam (2-53).
The result assured India of a spot in the final, while it consigned Afghanistan to bottom spot on the Super Four log, a position which didn’t do their performances in the Asia Cup justice. Having won both of their Group B matches, Afghanistan lost to Pakistan with three balls remaining, lost to Bangladesh by three runs and tied with India in their Super Four fixtures.
While Afghanistan leaves the Asia Cup without any silverware, they will take with them golden memories and plenty of credit from an excellent tournament that has helped to build their ever-growing reputation in world cricket.
Photos: Tharaka Basnayaka/NurPhoto via Getty Images