Afghanistan v Scotland, World Cup Qualifiers, Super Eights April 15, 2009

Scotland's status hangs by a thread

Afghanistan 279 (Khan 92, Mangal 72) beat Scotland 237 (Coetzer 91, Hamilton 71) by 42 runs

Afghanistan held their own against one of the pre-tournament favourites, Scotland, in a tense and impressive 42-run win in Benoni, successfully defending 280. With 92 from Karim Khan and a spirited effort in the outfield, where they took several athletic and clean chances, Afghanistan left Scotland the nail-biting task of needing to beat UAE on Friday if they are to retain their financially crucial ODI status. International cricket might be coming to Kabul after all, and the final round of matches will provide a fitting denouement to an exciting two weeks.

Scotland have been a disappointment all tournament. Unlike their nearest neighbours, Ireland, whose coattails they have chased in the last four years, Scotland's batting in the past two weeks has been too brittle to chase down anything competitive. And when Afghanistan marched off the field with 279, it left Scotland needing to post their highest total of the tournament.

That they came reasonably close owed much to Kyle Coetzer, who made 91, and Gavin Hamilton's 71, the pair putting on 133 in a nicely-paced partnership. Coetzer, who turned 25 yesterday, was strong off front and back foot, flicking Shapoor Zadran for consecutive fours and clouting Khaleqdaad Noori for the most nonchalant of sixes to bring up his patient 92-ball fifty. Hamilton provided stabilising support though he was savage on anything too short, as Mohammad Nabi found when he was elegantly lofted over long-on.

With twenty overs remaining, however, Scotland were up against it with 158 needed at nearly eight-per-over. Coetzer took on the challenge in thrilling style, lofting and driving the surprisingly wayward Hamid Hassan for three fours in succession before holing out to Karim Khan at gully. And it was now that Afghanistan stepped up a notch. Neil McCallum was expertly caught by Raees Ahmadzai at deep square leg, swooping to his right to take a grass-cutter out of the sun, before Hassan made up for his disappointing spell with a wonderfully judged dive at long-on to remove Hamilton.

Top Curve
Friday's final furlong
  • For Afghanistan to reach the final six, and gain ODI status, they need to beat Namibia on Friday.
  • If Scotland are to retain their ODI status, they have to beat UAE.
  • Should Namibia beat Afghanistan, they will finish in the top six and receive international status.
  • Click here for a detailed look ahead

Bottom Curve

As the pressure mounted, Scotland crumbled; the run-rate now climbing beyond 11-per-over, panic inevitably set in but Afghanistan's bowlers gave little away, bowling a disciplined line and were athletic and alive in the field. Shapoor, a lively, accurate and tall left-arm seamer, finished with 3 for 36 and is one to keep a very close eye on in the future. Afghanistan are still outsiders to reach the final six and achieve ODI status but their cricket continues to improve with every tournament and they fully outplayed Scotland today.

Disappointing with the bat, Scotland were equally lackadaisical in the field. Noor Ali (24 from 42 balls) and the enjoyably unconfined Karim Khan smacked 57 for the opening wicket. Karim's 92 was an innings of maturity from a fiery and competitive individual determined to take on the world. The clean-striking of his 10 fours - exuberant uppercuts over the slips and two savage pulls off Dewald Nel - spoke volumes for his talent, but said more about Scotland's own misguided tactic of short-pitched bowling. Shoulders drooped in the outfield, and several singles were easily converted into twos by Afghanistan, prompting angry kicks at the turf from Scotland's wicketkeeper.

Nowroz Mangal again stood up with a captain's innings of 72, hammering the hapless Jan Stander for the day's most authoritative drive straight back past the bowler. Afghanistan's major issue to work on is their middle order, which again misfired as they lost 3 for 4 in 10 balls, but Mangal was able to chivvy the tail along until he fell in the 48th over.

In the end, a target of 280 was plenty and, not for the first time in this tournament, Afghanistan outplayed and out-thought a team ranked far higher. Their chance of gaining full ODI status is by no means a fantasy, while Scotland's own standing as one of the six Associates hangs by a thread that will survive or be severed on Friday when they take on UAE.

"I am very happy at the moment that my team won against a team like Scotland, who are one of the big teams in the tournament and who have played in two World Cups," Karim said after the game. "It was very hard batting today and I was very disappointed to miss out on my century. But it was good to get two wickets as well. I am hoping that I can score a century on Friday as I want to give Afghanistan a big chance of getting to the World Cup."

Afghanistan coach Kabir Khan said that the result showed that "it wasn't a fluke that we got through the World Cup qualifying rounds."

"I have always had faith in my batting order and I have always maintained they are very good batters," he said. "They are very quick learners and in the first round they saw how the top players play an innings under pressure and that is what they are doing in the Super Eight stage. We are making some really good scores against the top teams and if we keep playing the way we are playing then we can beat Namibia."

Will Luke is assistant editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ryan on April 17, 2009, 1:34 GMT

    Does anybody know why the games played between the ODI teams in the Super 8's don't appear to be classified as official ODI's even though they were in the round robin stage?

  • Christoher on April 16, 2009, 20:29 GMT

    "Afghanistan are still outsiders to reach the final six "

    I think they've got more than an outside chance at beating Namibia. I'd love to watch Afghanistan play at the world cup, I've been supporting them since the World Cricket League (gotta love the underdogs, being a kiwi). Even if they don't make it, maybe Namibia could make it to the world cup. Both outcomes would be pretty exciting, a pity it could be at the expense of Scotland...

  • Sumanth on April 16, 2009, 16:20 GMT

    i just want to wish a best of luck to the scotland cricket team for their next match,i think they are better than many of the other teams in the competition but have been unlucky not to perform well at this crucial moment.

  • Sunil on April 16, 2009, 15:59 GMT

    I just made a rough estimate. If Ireland, Canada & Scotland the games and Afghanistan win the game by a margin of around 90+ runs (or chasing the target within 30 overs), they would become the 3rd position not only giving them the ODI status but also the entry to world Cup 2011 (based on runrate). However if they are thinking to get the ODI status they must beat Namibia by 45+ run margin (or chase within 40 overs).

  • Junoir on April 15, 2009, 21:22 GMT

    scotland is playing too complacent and Afghanistan, I think, will cause more headaches in world cricket both professionally and politically

  • Peter on April 15, 2009, 18:42 GMT

    By the looks of it, and judging by Karim's quote, Afghanistan are still mathematically alive to win a spot in the top four. If Ireland beats Kenya, Canada beats the Netherlands, Afghanistan beats Namibia, and a result either way in the Scotland/UAE match, Afghanistan could leapfrog into the top four (depending on run rate?) because there would be either a three way tie for fourth place with three teams (Kenya, Netherlands, Afghanistan) having three wins or a five way tie for third place with five teams (Kenya, Netherlands, Afghanistan, plus UAE and Scotland) deadlocked at three wins. I'm pulling hard for Ireland and Canada to demolish their opposition and Afghanistan to do the same so that if the run rates become the deciding factor, hopefully they will come out on top.

  • dave on April 15, 2009, 18:02 GMT

    It would be so helpful if those of us following the tournament with great interest could be informed somewhere of the tournament rules from this point. Does number one play number two after final round robin matches this friday. if so it looks like Canada Ireland in the Final, right? Even if Canada loses to netherlands, the worst that could happen would be a four way tie for second place, but with Canada so far ahead on net run rate that none of the others could catch them at this point. Is this an accurate assessment?

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