Bangladesh CricketWorld Cup

Impeccable Afghans swans into semi final

It was such a maddening night at St. Vincent since Australia, Afghanistan and even Bangladesh all had their chances to qualify for the semi-final 1. Afghanistan just had to ensure that they were leaving the ground with a win, perhaps a washout by rain would also do the job. Australia might just be praying that Bangladesh wins the game by the slightest margin as the Tigers also had their chances but had to race with the net run rate to leapfrog both the Aussies and Afghans.

Afghans won the toss in the windy condition of the Arnos Vale Stadium and opted to bat first. However, from the match against Nepal during the twilight of the group stage at the same ground it was palpable that this ground takes the ultimate test of the batters. Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran managed the initial pressure as their batters from the middle order onwards were struggling continuously to support at the end of the innings. This pair got their 4th 50 runs partnership in this edition of the tournament – the highest number of half-centuries for the opening pair in the tournament. But Bangladeshi bowlers were creating continuous pressure to strangle the opponent. Afghans accumulated only 27 from the powerplay and at the end, it was calculated that the Tigers bowled 66 dot balls today – 11 overs without any run all told.

Rishad topped the Bangladeshi bowling lineup with a 3-wicket haul that also takes him to the position of 3rd highest wicket-taker in this edition for now with the 14 wickets that he had taken. The young leg-spinner saw the back of both of the Afghan openers alongside Gulbadin Naib. Tanzim was expensive today with an economy rate of 9.00 without any wicket. But Taskin and Mustafizur performed well. With the wicket of Mohammad Nabi Taskin bowled a maiden over and gave merely 12 runs in 4 overs – only a 6 came from his last 12 balls. Mustafizur’s bowling spell was also like this: 4-0-17-1 and he spent just one from the 19th over.

Gurbaz was the top scorer for the Afghan side with a 55-ball 43 before Soumya took his catch in the deep cover. Other batters couldn’t touch the 20s but Rashid blazed 19 runs from 10 balls, 13 of which came from the last over of Tanzim.

As Bangladesh had to chase the 116-run target within 12.1 overs, the weather was deemed to be in favour of the Afghans as the rain was playing hide and seek. Tanzid, Shakib and Soumya followed by Riyad didn’t show the intention to win convincingly to qualify. However, Liton showed a beckon of light with his breakneck speed of batting at the beginning. Even though Bangladesh was ahead of the DLS par score when the pouring came down for the second time the batters didn’t take the advantage of the condition. Shanto was caught in the deep mid-wicket while charging Naveen-Ul-Haq. Tawhid also had to return after playing an innings of 9-ball 14 as the pressure was on the batters. Soumya scored 10 with a strike rate of 100 when Bangladesh had a shot to book a place in the semi-final. Mahmudullah was on strike when Bangladesh had to score 38 off 13 balls to leapfrog both the Aussies and the Afghans. Despite the good chance of doing so, he played 5 dot balls to Noor Ahmed while adding just a 4 to the scoreboard and Bangladesh’s all sweet dreams suddenly vanished, even by the time Rashid dismissed him by an inside-edge to the keeper, he scored 6 runs with a strike rate of 66.67.

At the end of the day, Bangladesh’s mentality was questioned as when the game resumed from the 3.2 overs, it seemed that  Bangladeshi batters were just playing to win this game and not in a hurry to qualify. Even they made blunders to do so often like Tanzim gave an easy catch to Nabi as a consequence of a failed attempt to pull Naib. Naib was criticized for doing some acting to waste some time before but did a good job of seeing the back of the 9th player from the Bangladeshi line which took them back on the driving seat. As the rain came and went, the race for the DLS par score was continuing. Then it was the 4thball of the 18th over when Taskin lit the stumps while chopping the ball on. Mustafiz had the duty to stop the subsequent 2 deliveries to keep Australia in the World Cup. However, he was trapped for a lbw in the first ball and the Afghans thus made history by knocking out Aussies and Bangladeshis out of the league with a win by 8 runs. Hopeless Liton remained not out for 54 and saw his team collapsing from the beginning. Thus the difference was evident – Afghan batters converted many singles into doubles & when the wet outfield was on the favour of the Bangladeshies they just gave up the hope.

Afghans mainly started their international cricket journey in 2006 – much later than Bangladesh and not just they beat Australia the other night, now they will play in the first semi-final against South Africa on 27 June at 6:30 AM. What a moment it is for the cricket! Hats off to the Afghan spirit. On the other hand, for Bangladesh and the mighty Australia – it’s time to book a flight home. It was said among the cricket fraternity that the cricket owes Afghans such a moment as they almost reached the semi last year in the ODI World Cup and now they have a hope to lift the silver trophy. Now the question is South Africa or the Afghans – who will proceed to their first-ever final?

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