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The Report by Mohammad Isam in Chittagong
March 18, 2014
Afghanistan 154 for 3 (Shahzad 68, Shafiqullah 51*) beat Hong Kong 153 for 8 (Barkat 32, Chapman 38) by 7 wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Mohammad Shahzad is Afghanistan's most prolific Twenty20 batsman by a long way. His recent form had been quite poor, as scores of 7, 22, 0, 22 and 0 in his last five innings would indicate. He broke this peculiar streak by hammering 68 off 53 balls as Afghanistan rushed to a seven-wicket win over Hong Kong.
The garnish on the win was provided by Shafiqullah, touted the T20 specialist by captain Mohammad Nabi. He blasted 24 runs off the 17th over, bowled by Aizaz Khan, and later helped himself to 11 off Haseeb Amjad in the following over to ensure Afghanistan won with two overs to spare.
A 150-plus chase looked tricky but Shahzad timed his innings perfectly. He made sure Afghanistan didn't stutter from the early loss of Najeeb Tarakai, who couldn't clear the midwicket boundary in the third over. Shahzad added 55 runs for the second wicket with Asghar Stanikzai, who scored slowly, but kept one end tight.
Shahzad survived two dropped catches in the sixth over, though, and three in total. Captain Jamie Atkinson and Aizaz missed him with differing degrees of difficulty. Aizaz's chance was a sitter at mid-on. The other drop was in the 15th over when Tanwir Afzal misjudged a chance at third man.
Shahzad continued in his merry way, having already struck a boundary past the wicketkeeper's right with a ball that struck the back of his bat. Stanikzai fell in the eleventh over, after which Shahzad reached his fifth T20 international fifty. Two balls later, he struck the shot of the day, a helicopter shot, over the midwicket boundary, and didn't he love it.
Irfan Ahmed made up for his second first-ball duck in the tournament with a stunning catch at deep extra-cover to get rid of Shahzad, but Afghanistan were on top of the situation. Though Nabi walked to the crease at that point, it was Shafiqullah who finished it in some style - making an unbeaten 51 off 24 balls.
Hong Kong finished on 153 for 8 in 20 overs, a marked improvement from their meltdown against Nepal. But their start must have made them worry about a repeat of Sunday night. Irfan missed Shapoor Zadran's inswinger off the first ball of the innings, the same point at which he had been out to Paras Khadka in the previous game.
But Waqas Barkat and Atkinson hit back soon after, taking 16 off the fourth over, bowled by Gulbadin Naib. Atkinson blasted boundaries through the off-side field and one straight down the ground. He also pulled a four and a six, over midwicket, his best shot in a very short innings. He was trapped leg-before by Hamza Hotak a ball after he had struck his fifth boundary, in the fifth over.
Barkat kept his shape well at the other end, despite the two losses. He built a 60-run stand with the fidgety Mark Chapman, Barkat scoring at a run-a-ball and letting Chapman have more of the strike.
Chapman started off very well but just after he had cracked one through the covers, Dawlat Zadran floored him with a quick bouncer. Chapman had looked to charge him, and although he dusted himself and got up quickly, Chapman needed the physio's attention immediately.
He ended up with the top score, 38 off 43 balls with three fours and a six, coming off legspinner Samiullah Shenwari. Two of his boundaries came through the off-side, and one could easily imagine the sort of talent possessed by this 19-year old.
Barkat got out to Mohammad Nabi, trying to scoop the offspinner. Babar Hayat also fell to Nabi in the 16th over. Chapman gave away his stumps for Zadran to aim at, and he stung his leg pole in the 17th over.
Nizakat Khan and Tanwir Afzal then took over the last three overs, hitting one six each. Nizakat hammered Hotak over extra-cover, the best-looking shot of the innings, while Tanwir top-edged a hoick over third-man in the penultimate over.
The result is effectively the end of the tournament for Hong Kong, while Afghanistan survive for one more potentially pivotal day, March 20.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets hereFeeds: Mohammad Isam
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