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Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Rain and Rahmat Shah foil Scotland despite Calum MacLeod hundred

Rahmat Shah drives elegantly over mid-off for six Peter Della Penna

Afghanistan 269 for 3 (Rahmat 113, Hashmatullah 59*, Shahzad 55) beat Scotland 325 for 7 (MacLeod 100, Coetzer 73) by two runs (DLS method)

Just over a year ago in Zimbabwe, Scotland's pursuit of a World Cup berth ended in heartbreak after a flash rain storm curtailed their tense chase against West Indies at Harare, resulting in the Saltires being on the short end of the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern calculation by five runs.

On Friday in Edinburgh, one of the two sides that benefited from the intervention of the weather last year in Harare - Afghanistan - wound up on the right side once again as a crucial boundary from Hashmatullah Shahidi to begin the 45th over while rain intensified at the Grange helped them stay ahead on DLS to secure a two-run win over the hosts. The result is another 1-0 series win for Afghanistan in Edinburgh, repeating the same margin from their two-match series in 2016.

For Afghanistan it was sweet revenge after the defeat they suffered to Scotland last year at the Qualifier. On that occasion, Calum MacLeod struck a magnificent 157 not out against the vaunted spin triumvirate of Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb Ur Rahman.

MacLeod repeated the three-figure feat again at the Grange, making an even 100 for his eighth ODI ton and third in his last eight matches. Scotland's No. 3 helped plunder 99 off the last 10 overs aided by a blistering cameo from George Munsey in which the left-handed pillaged 21 off new captain Gulbadin Naib in the 42nd with a pair of fours and sixes.

It spoiled Naib's figures after he had been a lone figure helping to somewhat stem the flow of runs in the absence of Rashid, Nabi and Mujeeb, making Afghanistan's ability to squeeze out a win without their three aces all the more remarkable. The allrounder ended a 76-run opening stand getting Matthew Cross for 32 prodding an edge to Mohammad Shahzad just after the drinks break. He then lured his opposite number Kyle Coetzer into slapping a return catch at thigh height for 79, then bowled Richie Berrington for 33 off 20 missing a slog in the 40th.

At 296 for 4 after 47, Hamid Hassan did brilliantly at the death to help limit the damage. In his first ODI for nearly three years, Hamid took two wickets in the 49th, teaming with Najibullah Zadran for a sharp pair of takes at deep square leg to claim both MacLeod and the ominous Craig Wallace two balls later for 20. After a fruitless four-over opening spell of 0 for 9 in which he hustled Coetzer and Cross off a newly shortened run-up, it was a just reward for Hamid on his comeback, after grinding through injuries and rehabilitation, and helped ensure Scotland added just 29 in the last three overs on an exceptionally flat pitch.

The death bowling made all the difference on a ground where Scotland made 371 last year, albeit with the boundary ropes dragged a bit further in. Whereas Scotland were circumspect in reaching 38 for 0 in their Powerplay after opting to bat first, Afghanistan were far more aggressive in their first ten behind Shahzad, Hazratullah Zazai and Rahmat Shah to reach 58 for 1. It took a sensational catch running back from mid-off by Coetzer to remove Zazai, otherwise wickets never looked likely while Shahzad and Rahmat were together in a 93-run stand.

Shahzad raised his fifty off 61 balls with a four slashed past the wicketkeeper. Despite Afghanistan being well ahead of the game, he continued taking risks to up the ante until he fell flicking Alasdair Evans to Wallace at deep square leg for 55.

Man of the Match Rahmat was a rock at the other end though, repeating his own heroics from Afghanistan's last visit to the Grange in 2016 when he scored his maiden ODI ton. The classy right-hander, who fell agonisingly short by two runs of what would have been Afghanistan's maiden Test ton in March against Ireland, would not be denied of his fourth one-day century, bringing up the landmark off 107 balls in the 38th over.

At that stage, Afghanistan were 215 for 2, four ahead of the DLS par score as sunny skies quickly turned bleak. Offspinner Tom Sole had been bowling much of his spell with sunglasses on but took them off as the storm clouds drew closer. He struck in the 40th, getting Rahmat to chip loosely to Berrington at midwicket in the ring for a sharp low catch. It brought Scotland nearly even on DLS, but Afghanistan continued finding key boundaries when they needed them.

Scotland's bowlers struggled to finish off an over, conceding a four or a six on the final ball on six occasions, including a crucial moment in the 39th to Rahmat. Every time Scotland threatened to inch ahead on DLS, Hashmatullah and Asghar Afghan found the requisite four to ease the pressure.

Afghanistan were level with the DLS par score of 267 after 44.4 overs as the showers progressed into a full-fledged storm. Evans waited at the top of his mark while wicketkeeper Cross held up his arms at the umpires, but Kumar Dharmasena was unmoved. A wicket off the fifth ball would have put Scotland ahead on DLS by three runs. Instead, Afghan clipped an attempted yorker off his pads for two to put Afghanistan in front for good, as Dharmasena could ignore the elements no more and the players were taken off with no chance of play resuming before the 7.30 pm cutoff.

Afghanistan move on to Ireland next week, with two ODIs scheduled for May 19 and 21. Scotland have a week to regroup before welcoming Sri Lanka for two ODIs on May 18 and 21 at the Grange.

Afghanistan 2nd innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st28Mohammad ShahzadHazratullah Zazai
2nd93Mohammad ShahzadRahmat Shah
3rd109Hashmatullah ShahidiRahmat Shah
4th39Asghar AfghanHashmatullah Shahidi