United Arab Emirates 176 for 4 (Mustafa 77, Shahzad 25, Rashid Khan 3-25) beat Afghanistan 160 (Sadiq 72, Naveed 2-23, Ahmed 2-28) by 16 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
United Arab Emirates stirred the qualifying round of the Asia Cup T20 with an upset over Afghanistan in a fairly high-scoring opening match in Fatullah on Friday.
In what was largely a tale of two knocks, Rohan Mustafa, the UAE opener, came trumps; his 50-ball 77 laying the base for their strong total of 176 for 4. Afghanistan were rocked early, and didn't quite recover even though Karim Sadiq kept them in the hunt with a fighting 48-ball 72. The target eventually proved to be 16 too many.
On paper, there was little doubt as to which was the stronger side. But UAE, with only three players having an experience of 10 or more T20Is, did the early running after opting to bat, with Muhammad Kaleem complementing Mustafa well during the course of a quick 83-run opening stand before Rashid Khan struck.
The 17-year old legspinner, who impressed during the limited-overs series against Zimbabwe last month, slowed things down further by dismissing Shaiman Anwar and Amjad Javed, the captain, off consecutive overs as UAE, who looked set to get close to 200 at one stage, slipped from 121 for 1 to 128 for 4.
Usman Mushtaq and Mohammad Shahzad came up with the rescue act. The two lent the finishing touches to the innings by adding 48 off the last five overs; Shahzad being particularly harsh on comeback man Shapoor Zadran, who was smashed for two sixes in the 17th over.
Afghanistan's chase hit a roadblock upfront as Mohammad Shahzad and Usman Ghani were dismissed in the space of three deliveries inside the first two overs. Asghar Stanikzai's wicket to his opposite number further threatened to pull the shutters on the chase.
Sadiq and Mohammad Nabi, coming into the tournament on the back of a successful stint with Quetta Gladiators in the Pakistan Super League, revived the chase with a 47-run stand, before Farhan Ahmed, the left-arm spinner, came back for a new spell and prised out Nabi for 23.
The loss of wickets forced Sadiq to hit out, which he did quite well to bring up a half-century off just 35 balls to bring the equation down to 33 off the last two overs. Sadiq, however, fell for 72 when he was bowled by seamer Mohammad Naveed. Mustafa then followed his rapid fifty with three wickets in the final over as Afghanistan were bowled out for 160 with one ball to spare.
By winning as comprehensively as they did, UAE also made it loud and clear that they weren't in it to merely make up the numbers.