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Afghanistan fall short of 'easily chaseable' target

Taijul Islam celebrates with team-mates after dismissing Hashmatullah Shahidi Associated Press

Afghanistan may have been celebrating loudly in front of a quiet crowd at the Shere Bangla National Stadium had they not panicked at the wrong moment. Instead it was Bangladesh who walked off with a seven-run win, thankful for their bowlers delivering some really good overs at the end.

The moment that first changed the momentum of the chase came in the 41st over, when the settled Rahmat Shah came down the pitch in search of a bit shot but was stumped easily off Shakib Al Hasan. Afghanistan were still very much in the game but the 144-run third-wicket stand was broken, offering the hosts an opening. The other set batsman, Hashmatullah Shahidi, then holed out in the 44th over, and it felt like it was up to Mohammad Nabi to finish off the game. But he was deceived by Taskin Ahmed's slower ball with Afghanistan still needing 23 off 14 balls.

Bangladesh closed it out very well, with Rubel and Taskin bowling fast yorkers that left the batsmen with little room to swing. Najibullah Zadran, who was the fifth wicket to fall in the 46th over, said that the match was in Afghanistan's control but the batsmen failed to execute in the final ten overs.

"I think that the match was in our hands," Zadran said. "It was just 70 or 72 runs in the last ten overs with five to six wickets in hand [Afghanistan needed 77 runs off the final ten with eight wickets in hand]. It was easily chaseable. Unfortunately we didn't bat properly and we didn't bat according to the plan and we played some shots which were unnecessary at that time.

"We were near to the victory. In the end four-five batsmen didn't play well and we lost the match. We had some of our main players who could hit the ball towards the end. But we didn't need to hit those shots in the end, we just needed to get ones or twos. That's why we couldn't get it."

Zadran was all praise for the third wicket stand between Shahidi and Rahmat. Both batsmen scored fifties after they had lost the openers, Mohammad Shahzad and Shabir Noori, in the first 7.3 overs.

"It was a really good partnership. We lost the first two wickets very early and then Shahidi and Rahmat Shah started a good partnership. This was our plan as well, that we should play out overs but unfortunately we were not able to reach the target.

Towards the end, as Bangladesh fought back, it seemed that Afghanistan might be getting overawed by the reactions of the large crowd. But Zadran said they are now getting accustomed to playing in front of a lot of people, and the pressure may have actually been on the home side. "[Crowd pressure] wasn't that much [on us] but I think pressure was on Bangladesh as this was their home conditions. The big crowd was just for them. They [had to] try to go for win and if they lost, it was big pressure. We are also getting familiar with the big crowds."