Asia Cup: Valiant effort by Afghanistan but Mustafizur seals match for B’Desh

Mohammad Nabi

Mustafizur Rahman defended seven runs off the last over against Afghanistan as Bangladesh set up a virtual knockout clash against Pakistan on Wednesday. As impressive as Afghanistan had been in the Asia Cup, they are out of the tournament having failed in their first chase, which was their second straight loss in the Super Fours, reports ESPN.

After conceding two off the first ball, a cramping Mustafizur had Rashid Khan caught and bowled before Samiullah Shenwari and Gulbadin Naib managed only two leg-byes from the last four balls. When Afghanistan needed four of the last ball, Shenwari’s bat flew out of his grip as he swung and missed Mustafizur’s short ball. The key moment in the closing stages was Mohammad Nabi’s dismissal in the penultimate over as he had already struck two fours and two sixes in his 28-ball 38.

While Mustafizur lived up to his billing as one of the best finishers with the ball in the world, it was Mahmudullah‘s timely 74 which got Bangladesh to a competitive 249 for 7 in 50 overs. He earned the Player-of-the-Match award after he also took the crucial wicket of Mohammad Shahzad, and a great catch to dismiss Afghanistan captain Asghar Afghan, who had added 78 runs for the fourth wicket with Hashmatullah Shahidi, who reached his third fifty jn a row.

Afghanistan had to recover from a poor start after Ihsanullah fell in the fifth over. Shakib Al Hasan then scored only Bangladesh’s third direct-hit run-out in the last 12 months as Rahmat Shah was caught short after he was sent back by Shahzad in the eighth over.

Similar to Bangladesh, Afghanistan’s third-wicket pair of Shahzad and Shahidi added 63 runs to pull them out of early trouble. Shahzad, who was dropped on 9 when the skier ended up hitting Mohammad Mithun’s head after it slipped through his fingers, faced his usual problem of rotating the strike. He gave away 54 dot balls but still eked out a half-century. Mahmudullah then bowled him with an arm ball as Shahzad backed away to cut the ball, after Afghanistan had gone through without a boundary for the previous 23 balls.

Dhawan and Rohit

In the third match of the super four, India surged past Pakistan modest total of 237 with ease just losing one wicket and that too a runout of Shikhar Dhawan after he scored 114.

India were thoroughly professional and dynamic under their stand-in captain Rohit Sharma. The fast bowlers executed their plan of cramping up the left-hand openers, a leg spinner came on early enough in a data-based decision, Jasprit Bumrah thwarted a Shoaib Malik fifty with four overs of excellent death bowling, and for the second match in a row against Pakistan, Rohit and Shikhar Dhawan almost had a net in the middle to seal an easy win.

The game began with the continuous fascinating examination of Fakhar Zaman. India hardly gave him any room to hit the ball through off side in the first seven overs, giving him just six off 24 balls. Straight bowling has been a weakness for Zaman, but as he showed in the Champions Trophy final last year, he can catch up as the innings progresses. Rohit, though, changed things around just as Zaman would have started to settle down. As early as the eighth over, India had Yuzvendra Chahal on.

Malik, though, got back to scoring runs against India after a spell of eight India matches without a score of 50. Pakistan, for the first time in these two matches, had managed to reach parity. Worst fears were about to come through. The ball did nothing for Pakistan bowlers, and the pitch only quickened up under the lights, making stroke-making even easier.

There was no swing for Mohammad Amir even though the 18-year-old Shaheen Afridi created a little bit of excitement. Soon he was in for the Amir treatment as he drew a catch from Rohit with a slower ball, Imam made it the fourth one dropped off the pacer’s bowling in two games.

Amir was taken out, Hasan Ali struggled with the new ball, Amir came back, Afridi kept trying, but Rohit and Dhawan kept dispatching them all without a bother. Rohit now handled even Shadab Khan easily despite his recent troubles against leg spin. Another catch went down. Amir has now gone 35.4 overs without a wicket in ODIs.

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About Ashok Kumar

Ashok Kumar is an accomplished journalist with over 38 years of experience in the profession in various capacities. He was a sub-editor in Patriot and later Chief Sub-editor in The Hindustan Times, New Delhi. He has several published articles and reports in Patriot and HT. Published reports in The Blacktown Sun in Sydney. He had also been a tutor in journalism in the University of Western Sydney. He is currently Editor at The Indian Sub-continent Times, Sydney.

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