Twenty20 is too unpredictable a format to term unexpected results as upsets, but one of the traits of better, more fancied sides is that their cricket is more deliberate when things get tight. On a difficult pitch, during a spell of good bowling from the opposition, they appear more in control, unhurried even if it might seem to those outside that time is running out. The better sides target the weak bowlers in these situations. Those who don't trust themselves go after the good bowlers. It can come off at times, but it is low-percentage T20 cricket in tight situations.
In winning the second T20I against Bangladesh, and with that the series, Afghanistan have left no doubt over who the better, the more fancied team was. They faced two maiden overs from left-arm spinner Nazmul Islam at the start of the innings, went 33 balls without a boundary in the middle, but rarely played shots that they are not comfortable playing. The slightly desperate sixes were straight hits and not slogs across the line. In a similar scenario, having gone 39 balls without a boundary, three of Bangladesh's left-hand batsmen got out trying to hit Rashid Khan for a six.
The situation in both the innings was pretty similar. Rashid came on to bowl in the 11th over, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi soon bowled out, and Bangladesh had to know they were going to get three overs of pace towards the end that they could target. Afghanistan also got stuck against the spin of Nazmul, Shakib, Mahmudullah and Mosaddek Hossain, but they also knew Bangladesh couldn't forever continue bowling spin.
Bangladesh didn't wait for the overs of pace. Imagine a batsman like MS Dhoni in this situation. Bangladesh were 101 for 4, Rashid's third over was the 16th of the innings, the other two spinners were bowled out, and you have three overs of pace to target. Dhoni is not always the best example on flat pitches, but in this situation, what would he do? He would not even mind as few as eight runs off Rashid's two overs as long as he doesn't get a wicket, which in turn leaves them in a position to gather 40 off the other three. That is an effort that takes them to 150, which is what Bangladesh felt was a winning total on this pitch.
Instead, Shakib, Rashid's team-mate at Sunrisers Hyderabad, went to hit six off the first ball, and Tamim Iqbal - who must have felt the pressure of having faced 47 balls for 43 - off the fourth. The next ball, Rashid got Mosaddek with a wrong'un. Soumya Sarkar soon became the fourth batsman to get out trying to hit Rashid out of the ground.
There can be two explanations for this approach. Bangladesh didn't have the luxury of knowing what they were chasing, which must have made them feel they were going under par. Having got the match-ups right - they had stacked left-hand batsmen against Rashid, who went at close to 10 runs an over against left-hand batsmen in the IPL as compared to under a run a ball against the rest - they possibly felt obliged to chase the match-up and attack Rashid.
However, Bangladesh need to ask themselves if the third one was true: that they failed to judge the pitch and back themselves against the quicker bowlers. Even if you get historical match-ups right - and they do tell you a lot - you have to sometimes respect the conditions, and this has not been the pitch to be going after the spinners. In this series, the quicks have gone at 9.75 an over and spinners at 5.29. One of the two senior batsmen - Shakib and Tamim - should have taken it upon himself to be there against the returning quicks.
In contrast, Afghanistan made sure they had set batsmen when the quicks returned. Shafiqullah later said the captain and the coach had told the batsmen going out that if they had five wickets in hand in the last five overs, they would win. The confidence comes from their faith in the hitting power of the middle and lower-middle order. While a tiring Samiullah Shenwari kept going for his hits, Mohammad Nabi took no risk at all against spin. Bangladesh played it well by continuing with spin till the 18th over but Nabi knew he still had time. Nabi was telling Shakib he is not going anywhere, that he will be there to see the spinner should he still fancy bowling the last over.
Shakib eventually gave in and went to Rubel Hossain in the 19th over, and clinically, without fuss, Nabi ended it in the that over itself. This is a team that has come a long way from being the emotional side that coaches wanted to calm down. This is a side that is extremely good at T20 and knows it. They have two of the best spinners going around, they have experience in the batting, they are all naturally strong batsmen who have now honed their techniques to hit sixes efficiently. They know how to win. They are now waiting for bigger prey.