Winning will help Afghanistan progression - Inzamam
Having threatened to pull off a win over a big team in their first three matches of the Super 10 stage, Afghanistan finally went ahead and did it against the group-topping West Indies in Nagpur. Inzamam-ul-Haq, Afghanistan's batting coach, praised his team's self-belief, and reiterated the call for more opportunities to play against the Full Members.
"All our previous matches have been close," Inzamam said. "There haven't been one-sided matches, it's not like a team makes 200 against us and we are all out for 100 or 150. The team has been fighting, and the belief was always there.
"But Afghanistan haven't had that exposure of winning against big teams. The finishing point has not been seen yet. But now that we have won this, it will definitely help. And we had a strong belief that if we can come so close, we can win too. Today it has happened. We could have won against England, there was a close game against Sri Lanka too. So we knew we had the potential to win, but you still need that win. The more we play against big teams, the more we'll learn, and can perform even better."
One of the players who displayed strong self-belief was the left-arm spinner Amir Hamza. Having been hit for 25 runs in one over in his last match, against England, he took the new ball, bowled three of his four overs in the Powerplay, and finished with figures of 4-0-9-1.
"He's one of our main bowlers," Inzamam said. "Sometimes we need to make changes in the XI as per the conditions, and as per the player's form. But he is a seasoned player and a terrific bowler. In the last match, he conceded 25 runs in one over, but he didn't let it affect his confidence. Today, at a crucial point, he bowled well."
Sent in to bat, Afghanistan posted 123 for 7. Inzamam felt the total was perhaps 15 or 20 runs below par given the conditions, but said the team made it up with their bowling and fielding.
"If you see, chases have been difficult on this ground," he said. "Even in the last game, West Indies could chase 123 against South Africa only in the last over. India also played earlier and were all out for 79 [against New Zealand]. So it's not easy to get runs in the second innings on this ground.
"And we knew that, so it's not like we had started out thinking we should get 160-170. Our target was 140 to 150, we thought we could put pressure [on West Indies] if we had that total. So we thought we fell maybe 15-20 runs short, but I think the boys fielded excellently. They caught well and saved 10-15 runs on the field. That covered the runs we couldn't make while batting."
West Indies were playing their second match of the tournament in Nagpur, while Afghanistan - who had won three out of three first-round matches at the venue - were playing their fourth. Inzamam said Afghanistan's knowledge of the conditions gave them an edge on the day.
"We thought we knew this ground better than West Indies, we had already played three matches here, practised a lot here. We had an idea about the pitch and the ground, and that helped us mentally as well as on the ground. The bowlers knew how to bowl on the pitch, the batsmen had an idea, and we spoke about this in our team meeting yesterday also - that we definitely know these conditions better than West Indies."
Inzamam has been part of the Afghanistan backroom since October 2015. Asked how long he intended to stay on in the role, he said he would sit with the Afghanistan Cricket Board at the end of his current term and take a mutual decision.
"I am with them for a year now, so I'm looking at [finishing] that first. After a year is up, we have to decide whether they want to keep me or not too. It has to be both ways. I have five-six months left and, inshallah, they will go well."
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo