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Alan Gardner in Chittagong
March 19, 2014
The long shot has a special place in the heart of most sports fans. Not to mention the underdog that bites. For Afghanistan to get through to the next round of the World T20 and continue menacing the established sides, they will need to grasp a "one percent chance", according to their coach, Kabir Khan. It may even be smaller than that.
Afghanistan, who many fancied to cause an upset in the opening match of the tournament, will need several improbables to go their way if they are to deny Bangladesh top spot in the group. The hosts have won two from two with plenty to spare and now face Hong Kong, whose record so far is as bad as Bangladesh's is good. Even a landslide win for Afghanistan over a more-than-handy Nepal would require Hong Kong to mete out an extraordinarily unlikely thrashing of their own.
Kabir can only focus on the job at hand for his team. "Every match is important and we want to win, obviously now we are in a position to plan to win with big margins," he said. "Cricket is a funny game and we are expecting a one percent chance of anybody beating Bangladesh here. But if someone beats Bangladesh, we have to keep our chances alive, at least the run rate should be higher and if that happens and our run rate is there, then we could qualify."
Afghanistan are currently third behind Nepal on NRR, after contrasting fortunes on the first day. The run rate situation means that Nepal are actually better placed to go through should Bangladesh slip up and consequently will be expected to push Afghanistan hard. Had Kabir's team beaten Hong Kong more heavily on Tuesday, the equation may have been more in their favour but he said the batsman had been following instructions only to unleash towards the end.
"In respect of Bangladesh getting beaten, we had to put ourselves in a position where we could win and then you go for the plan to get your run rate better," he said. "We wanted to keep wickets in hand and then, at a stage that we were in control, we wanted to finish the match early. So that's the sort of thing you do in T20, you get yourself in a position of control and then you dominate."
Shafiqullah's 24-ball half-century, to follow up a slightly more measured (by his own standards) 68 from Mohammad Shahzad, suggested they could have started the domination a little earlier.
Their best chance may be to bowl Nepal out cheaply - no mean feat after their fellow Associate resisted all 20 overs for the loss of just five wickets against Bangladesh - and then race past the target. Afghanistan certainly have the firepower in their attack, which will be the quickest Nepal have faced on a lively Chittagong surface, although such riches may have inadvertently undermined their chances of progression. Kabir suggested, with a grin, that the beating Bangladesh took in the Asia Cup earlier this month had triggered a defensive posture by the hosts.
"We have good-quality fast bowlers, we train them like that, they are aggressive and everybody knows that our fast-bowling attack is very good, especially at Associate standard and sometimes at Test standard. In the Asia Cup, the bowling was very all together and I think that's why the Mirpur wicket was a bit slow."
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Alan Gardner
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala