Rashid Khan ran riot with a five-wicket haul to guide Afghanistan past the United Arab Emirates in their Super Six encounter at the Old Hararians ground in Harare on Tuesday (March 20).
With this win, Afghanistan, who had earlier defeated Windies in their opening Super Six tie, have improved their chances of booking a berth for the 2019 World Cup.
Contrary to what the scorecard suggests, the game was actually quite closely fought. While UAE were bundled up for 177 in 43 overs after Rashid finished with 5 for 41 and Dawlat Zadran with 3 for 45, Afghanistan didn’t find the going easy either. They stuttered to 54 for 5 before Gulbadin Naib (74 not out) and Najibullah Zadran (63 not out) scripted an unbroken 124-run stand for the sixth-wicket to see Asghar Stanikzai’s men past the tape.
Earlier, UAE, who opted to bat first, would have regretted that decision not much after Rohan Mustafa got the coin toss go his way.
Before the half-way stage of their innings, they were kept to 59 for 4, and things didn’t look up much after either. Only when Shaiman Anwar (64 off 87 balls), coming out to bat at No. 5, showed stomach for a fight did they come up with runs. As for Rashid, who has quite possibly become the most famous cricketer to come out of Afghanistan, the legspinner started his wicket-taking spree with Chirag Suri and ended with Qadeer Ahmed. In between, he packed off Muhammad Usman, Shaiman and Mohammed Naveed in that order.
Shaiman’s scalp, though, was the turning point as UAE, who were finally looking at a score past 200, were kept down to a tough-to-defend total.
That UAE managed to make a fist of the situation was commendable. Naveed and Qadeer Ahmed, the opening bowlers, picked up two wickets and Ahmed Raza bagged one to leave Afghanistan in a major spot of bother.
UAE were finally in the contest, but as Naib and Najibullah spent more time in the middle, their hopes faded. Naib was far more cautious in his essay but he had little choice given that he was running out of partners quickly. Najibullah far more free-flowing in his knock and that in turn ensured Naib didn’t feel bogged down by the run chase.
Afghanistan next face Ireland on March 23 and that contest could decide the fate of their future.