Afghanistan 210 for 5 (Shahzad 75, Leask 2-24) beat Scotland 173 (Mommsen 44, Nabi 3-25) by 37 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Mohammad Shahzad bulldozed his way to 75 off 36 balls to spearhead Afghanistan's third successive victory in the World T20 qualifier. While their celebrations were buoyant - the fans at the Grange leapt onto the field, flags in tow for handshakes and selfies - hosts Scotland were left in the slipstream with two losses in two days and one big problem - their bowling. "We couldn't keep the boundary count down to where we would have liked," their captain Preston Mommsen said. As mild a telling off as can be considering they took the brunt of 17 sixes and nine fours.
Afghanistan's 210 - their highest total in T20 cricket - was built on their highest partnership in T20 cricket. Shahzad and captain Asghar Stanikzai ransacked 110 in 63 balls for the second wicket to deflate a bowling attack that appeared rather shocked. Poor Mark Watt, all of 18 years old and bowling innocuous left-arm spin, was spanked for four sixes in his first, and the third, over of the day. All of them courtesy the bullish Shahzad. The fuse was lit.
The explosion looked like this: 6 off 9 became 30 off 15 which became 50 of 26 and eventually finished at 75 off 36 with seven sixes and five fours. By the time Watt was forced out of the attack - 2-0-41-0 - Afghanistan had reached 101 for 1 in the ninth over. It is difficult for a bowler to restore parity after a batsman gets as much momentum. Especially when they are 130 kph medium-pacers and finger spinners low on experience.
Shahzad, who averages 49 against Scotland and is the highest scorer in World T20 qualifier history with 867 runs from 27 matches, ran down the pitch as if his intent was to whack the bowler himself, not so much the ball. But when the seamers Alasdair Evans and Safyaan Sharif kept it full and he was asked to take only one step forward to the ball, he did look suspect.
Scotland bowled only five balls on a fuller length at him, and none of them were on or outside off. They fed that big swing into the leg side and Shahzad tucked in to the tune of 45 runs. The only bowler who had any measure of control against him, and the rest of the line-up, was offspinner Michael Leask who used the around-the-wicket angle and variations of pace and length to ensure he wasn't predictable.
Scotland did create a chance when Shahzad was dismissed in the 12th over, and his partner Stanikzai who contributed only 33 runs to the 110 they added together, fell two balls later. Afghanistan flailed for a little while - only 35 runs in five overs - until Najibullah Zadran and Mohammad Nabi found their groove - 63 runs in the last four overs to push the total past 200.
With a required rate that was over 10 before a ball was bowled, Scotland needed a big innings. Although they didn't get that, they compensated by stringing meaningful partnerships together. Matthew Cross, with a hefty preference for slog sweeps, added 50 off 31 balls with Richie Berrington. Then Mommsen smashed 41 of the 51 runs that the sixth wicket stand provided for Scotland to keep a few people guessing. He carved 22 runs in four balls in the 15th over but that still left 70 needed off the final 30 balls. Against possibly the best bowling attack in the tournament, that is a no-contest.
Mohammad Nabi with his crafty use of flight and Hamid Hassan with his bulls-eye yorkers took six wickets between them to keep them comfortably atop the Group B table. Although there is concern around Hassan's fitness. Towards the end of his spell, he appeared to have suffered an injury and limped off the field after bowling the 19th over.