Rashid Khan hopes for 'big celebration' in earthquake-ravaged Afghanistan after England win

Star legspinner hopes the performance provides solace to people who are struggling back home

Ashish Pant
Rashid Khan has always been in tune with the struggles of the Afghanistan people. At the time of the Taliban takeover, he was in the UK, playing in the Hundred, and all he wanted was "peace". Now, in the aftermath of earthquakes that have wreaked immense damage in Herat, he hoped that their humbling of the men's ODI World Champions England may give the nation some form of solace.
"It will be a big celebration back home," he told Star Sports after the game "We don't have that kind of wins and that kind of situation back home in Afghanistan where people could celebrate. I think cricket is the only source which gives them lots of happiness and lots of good memories and people back home just wait. We have lost so many games but still the kind of support we got from them...and they are so excited for us to be playing in that stage."
"Winning the game against England was a big one for us, back home they will be so proud. Lately, we've had an earthquake back home in Afghanistan in Herat where lots of people lost their lives, more than 3000. Around 2000 people's houses were destroyed. This victory will give them a little bit of smile on their faces and they could little bit forget those tough days."
Coming into the game, Afghanistan's only win at the World Cup in 17 attempts, came against Scotland back in the 2015 edition. But having racked up their second-highest score at this tournament, the Afghanistan spin trio of Rashid, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi wove their magic as England went down by 69 runs in Delhi - their second loss in three games.
Rashid played a huge role in the win, both with the bat and ball. He first scored a crucial 23-ball 22 coming lower down the order to arrest a slide as Afghanistan recorded 284 in 49.5 overs. He then followed it up with a three-wicket haul taking his side to the biggest upset of the competition this year.
"Against a big team like England, it always gives you a kind of huge boost. We had very tough games in the Asia Cup and the series against Pakistan," he said.
"We were very close there but we were not winning those games, which was disappointing to the players because they were working very hard and at the end they were ending on the wrong side. They were not getting the right kind of energy and boost up. This win will give us a lot of energy for the rest of the competition. Now we have the belief that we can beat any side at any time."
While Rashid's major contribution came with the ball as he removed Liam Livingstone, Adil Rashid and Mark Wood, that isn't the thing that had him smiling from ear to ear. "More than the three wickets, it was the 23 runs that were crucial. I was so happy with that, especially the cover drive off Mark Wood," he said, "That is something I am more excited about after the game than my three wickets. That was the kind of contribution I wanted to have for the team. Happy after a long time to get three wickets. I was struggling a little bit to get the wickets as well but happy to get them at a very crucial time."
Along with Rashid, the other major influence in the game was Mujeeb-Ur-Rahman who first slammed a 16-ball 28 before picking 3 for 51 off his ten overs to take home the Player-of-the-Match trophy. After Fazalhaq Farooqi set the ball rolling with the wicket of Jonny Bairstow, Mujeeb made a mess of Joe Root's stumps inside the powerplay.
"As a spinner, it is very hard to bowl in the powerplay. You have only two fielders outside but that is something I have been working on in the nets," Mujeeb said at the presentation. "Bowling with the new ball there and I try my best to be as consistent as possible and that is something which made me more effective. In the powerplay, you don't have much of the areas to bowl wider or leg stump but I always try my best to bowl stump to stump and make it simple for myself.
"Whenever I am bowling in the nets, same mindset and same mentality. I am bowling into the wicket and that's where I am enjoying my bowling.
"It's a very proud moment to be here in the World Cup and beating the last World Cup champions. It is a great achievement for the whole nation, for the whole team and I think it is a kind of opportunity and we have worked hard for this day to beat such a big team and so happy for this performance."
Captain Hashmatullah Shahidi termed this win against England as Afghanistan's best and was confident that this was just the start of his side's journey in the World Cup.
"This was the best win that we got today and the confidence will be there for the next games and all the country will be proud and happy," he said. "Last couple of games we did not finish well, but we had the belief. This is not the first win that we are looking for. Moving forward, we will be positive for the next games. This means a lot for us. This was the first one, not the last one."

Ashish Pant is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo