Afghanistan beat USA to progress
Afghanistan 135 for 4 (Mangal 30) beat USA 106 for 7 (Hassan 3-14) by 29 runs
Cheered on by a vocal crowd of over 1,000, Afghanistan continued their superb form in this tournament, sealing a 29-run victory over USA to maintain their unbeaten run and secure passage to the Super Fours. After the early loss of Mohammad Shahzad, Afghanistan's top five rallied to post 135 for 4. Shapoor Zadran's miserly opening spell pegged USA back in the first five overs, and once again Hamid Hassan was in the wickets, picking up three today in another emphatic win.
Afghanistan's total, though competitive, was by no means unbeatable, and once again they needed a strong performance from their bowlers to back up the work done by the batsmen. Zadran, who was the architect of yesterday's win with some frugal bowling, was at it again today. Charging in, he found good pace and some movement, and conceded just six runs in his opening spell. He was well supported by Mirwais Ashraf at the other end, but Afghanistan's fielding mirrored that of USA in the first innings, as three run out chances were missed in the first five overs and two catches were dropped in the innings.
Ashraf also found some nip off the pitch, felling Sushil Nadkarni with a sharp bouncer in his third over. After a slow start, Nadkarni slashed Karim Sadiq to the point boundary, but mistimed a lofted drive in the next over to depart for 12. With the required run rate edging towards 10 an over, Lennox Cush hoicked Mohammad Nabi to Nowroz Mangal at long-on and USA's hopes began to fade. Hassan, who has been instrumental to Afghanistan's success, dismissed Carl Wright with the first ball of his spell as the batsman drove hard but in the air and straight to Nabi at short cover as USA were reduced to 54 for 3 in the 13th over.
Timroy Allen lofted Nabi high over long off, but had his stumps shattered in Hassan's next over to depart for 9. Aditya Thyagarajan, whose unbeaten 72 was the highlight of USA's batting yesterday, repeated the shot off Sadiq's offspin, but then had his off stump similarly uprooted by a buoyant Hassan. Rashard Marshall unleashed some classy drives in his 19, but by the time he came to the wicket the result was already all but sealed, and after his run out in the final over USA closed on 106 for 7.
After Mangal had won the toss and decided to bat, Afghanistan's innings got off to an uncharacteristically muted start as Shahzad struggled to get off the mark. After a few airy slashes, he departed for a fifth ball duck, his nervy swish resulting in a nick to Wright. Noor Ali also battled to time the ball in the first few overs, but found some touch with the introduction of Imran Awan in the sixth over, cracking the first three balls he faced from him to the boundary with a series of pulls and flicks to leg.
Ali was run out for 26 after a mix up with Mangal two overs later to bring Sadiq to the crease. Sadiq aimed a wild swipe at his very first ball and was lucky to survive as long as he did, being dropped twice in the midst of a shoddy fielding effort from USA. His frenetic innings ended when he was stumped charging down the wicket to Allen's medium pace with Wright standing up.
All the while Mangal had been accumulating runs well at the other end, and was particularly strong off the front foot. Aggressive batting was a feature of Afghanistan's innings, but unfortunately so was their poor running. To add to Ali's dismissal, Sadiq should have been run out for two but was given a life after Steve Massiah missed an easy chance with an inaccurate throw from mid off. Mangal was also run out for 30 after more confused running, to leave the innings poised at 89 for 4 after 15 overs.
Nabi and Raees Ahmadzai took a heavy toll on the bowling with some thrilling strokeplay in the closing overs, adding 46 in quick time to inflate Afghanistan's total. Nabi got going with a glance to the fine leg boundary before unleashing a remarkable inside-out drive, lofted over the covers for six, and following that up with a fierce pull through midwicket in the next over. Swinging hard at everything, Ahmadzai finally found the boundary off the final two balls of the innings courtesy of more poor fielding to finish on 26 from 17 balls. Ultimately, their aggressive approach provided Afghanistan's bowlers with the breathing space they needed to complete another victory.
Afghanistan's win confirms their place in the Super Fours and takes them one step closer to their dream of a trip to the West Indies for the World Twenty20 tournament. For their part, USA will have been pleased with their win over Scotland in the opening game of the Qualifiers, but their heavy loss to Ireland yesterday and capitulation today confirms the hard work still needed for them to be competitive at this level.