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April 2, 2009
Afghanistan 239 for 9 (Karim 83, Nowroz 71) beat Bermuda 179 (Blakeney 68, Outerbridge 62, Samiullah 4-28) by 60 runs
Chasing 240, Bermuda lost Lionel Cann - a batsman apparently back to his flourishing best - when he was bowled by Dawlat Ahmadza's third ball of the innings. Jekon Edness followed soon after to Hasti Gul and, in a beautifully controlled five-over spell, Ahmadza conceded just five runs to tie Bermuda in knots.
And then a resurgence took place with Glenn Blakeney and Steven Outerbridge opening their shoulders in a third-wicket stand of 118 to levy the balance. But their partnership lacked momentum thanks to Afghanistan's tidy spinners, in particular Samiullah Shenwari, the young legspinner with an impressive stock delivery, who startled many with prodigious turn. Blakeney often mistakenly played across the line to the slower bowlers but, when driving straight down the ground, looked far more assured.
Blakeney scorched a huge six over the top during his 89-ball fifty but was bowled attempting another heave, and it was left to Outerbridge to salvage a run-chase, as Bermuda sought an unlikely 115 from the last 16 overs. It was far too great a task. Hamid Hassan returned and bowled at a lively pace, with disciplined lines, to nip out two quick wickets while Samiullah deceived David Hemp with a lovely delivery that curved and dipped.
That they failed to bat out their 50 overs tells a sorry but familiar tale of underachievement by Bermuda. Their captain, Irvine Romaine, refused the notion that they underestimated their opponents. "We didn't, no, but if you look at when they played in Division 3, they [have improved]. I was surprised when the last seam bowler [Hassan] came on. He is a quality bowler, one of the fastest in the tournament. We did not expect that at all and he is a top-notch bowler.
"This is part of cricket. Sometimes you show up to play, sometimes you don't."
Though the margin of victory was significant, Afghanistan also suffered a batting slump, but two classy fifties from their captain and Man-of-the-Match Nowroz Mangal and the indefatigable Karim Khan, ensured a more than competitive total. Karim, who yesterday cracked 39 in Afghanistan's win over Denmark, stroked 83 with ten crisp fours and propelled an innings which stood at 128 for 1 after 28 overs. But it was Nowroz's late burst, in which he helped put on 55 in the last five overs, that really tested Bermuda's bowlers and fielding. Both aspects were found wanting.
Rodney Trott's tidy offspin earned him 2 for 33 though his impact ought to have spelled a warning to Bermuda in facing Afghanistan's own tweakers, who turned the ball far more prodigiously.
There was little question which team was the hungrier, and Afghanistan's second win on the trot ought to serve as an acute reminder of their fearlessness and ability. They now take on Kenya, who today thrashed UAE, on Saturday.
Shorter tours don't allow you time to get into form, and domestic cricket isn't demanding enough