Opener Mohammad Shahzad struck a blistering 61 from 39 balls, as Afghanistan posted an impressive 170 for 5 in their match against Scotland, in a group B clash at Jamtha, Nagpur. Scotland, in response, took the bull by the horns as the openers raced to 84 in 8.5 overs. Kyle Coetzer blasted 40 from 27 while George Munsey raced to 41 from 29. But, both fell within a run of each other as Afghanistan hit back strongly. The pressure of the huge run chase then got to Scotland, as Afghanistan tightened their grip on the match, winning by 14 runs.
Coetzer began by smashing Amir Hamza for a four through cover, and then blasted the spinner for a six in the same region. Dawlat Zadran conceded three fours to Munsey in the fourth over, before Gulabdian Naib was smashed for 18 in the next. This included a four off a no-ball, and three more through backward square leg, point and fine leg as Scotland brought up fifty in five overs. The boundaries kept coming before a Samiullah Shenwari short ball was hit straight to deep square leg by Coetzer. In the very next over, Rashid Khan trapped Munsey plumb in front as he missed a sweep. There was no comeback for Scotland from that point as the momentum swung.
Earlier, batting first after having won the toss, Afghanistan rallied around Shahzad’s knock as Scotland’s bowlers failed to keep him quiet. They did fight back hard after Shahzad was dismissed at the end of the 13th over. Naib and Mohammad Nabi fell in quick succession, following Shahzad to the crease. But, Afghanistan skipper Asghar Stanikzai, coming in at number three, hung around to compile an unbeaten 55 from 50 balls as Afghanistan recovered again towards the end, and pushed their team towards a highly competitive total.
Shahzad got off to a perfect start, slapping Mark Watt to the boundary through covers first ball. At the other end, Noor Ali Zadran began by flicking Josh Davey for a six over deep midwicket, and then crushed him past extra cover for a four. Soon, he angled Alasdair Evans past the vacant slip region, but fell next ball, thick edging a short ball to third man. Stanikzai began by muscling Davey over deep midwicket. Shahzad then burst out hitting three sixes in the space of two overs – one into the second tier at deep midwicket, the second over long off, and the third one straight down the ground.
The runs kept coming until, Shahzad, having smashed Watt for two fours, holed out at long on to the same bowler. His innings though put Afghanistan in command. Naib then fell to a brilliant catch as Matt Machan dived forward to complete a catch at wide long-on. Nabi also followed soon as Stanikzai smashed one into the stumps at the other end. Nabi was out of his crease, and the bowler Evans caught him short. Afghanistan were losing some momentum but Shafiqullah came in and three fours in quick time before being run out even as Stanikzai laboured past his fifty.
--By A Cricket Correspondent