Matches (17)
ENG v WI (1)
MLC (2)
Asia Cup (2)
ENG v SL (U19) (1)
LPL (2)
TNPL (1)
T20 Blast (8)
Match Analysis

Afghanistan's legspinners turn the tide

Leaving out two of your main pace bowlers for the opening match of a tournament is a brave move, but Afghanistan had read the pitch perfectly against Scotland

A legspinner, a long hop. At the point when Kyle Coetzer's bat reached the top of its backlift, poised to swat the ball into the vast expanses of the leg side, Scotland were 84 without loss in 8.4 overs. Off the 68 balls that remained, including this one, they needed 87 runs to win.
Even before the chase began, Afghanistan knew they could have set a bigger target than 171. Mohammad Shahzad, who had given them a flying start with a 39-ball 61, felt they had fallen 20 or 25 short of the total they had been on course to achieve. And now, Coetzer's inside-out lofts and George Munsey's clouts down the ground were powering Scotland along at an alarming rate.
Coetzer opened up at the hips, intending to hit the ball over, or just wide of, the fielder at short fine leg. But he was a touch too early into his shot, or the ball skidded through quicker than he expected, and the miscue went high in the air, squarer than intended. Down it descended into the hands of deep square leg.
Here was the breakthrough. Two balls later, Munsey missed a sweep, and another legspinner had struck with another innocuous delivery. And in the next over, tragicomedy: a slip, a mix-up, a run-out. Far more by accident than design, Samiullah Shenwari and Rashid Khan had changed the game. Scotland's task still seemed manageable - they now needed 76 off 59 balls - but the field suddenly seemed twice as large, protected by twice as many fielders.
This was a T20 game between Afghanistan and Scotland, but it seemed to have transformed itself into a contest between the 1990s stereotypes of their Full Member neighbours, Pakistan and England. Two legspinners on one side and a pair of cagey nurdlers on the other, itching to play the sweep. Prowling the outfield was a galloping deliverer of stinging yorkers, waiting to come on at the death.
The fielders in the ring flung themselves about, cutting off firm hits. Short balls from the spinners rolled down to long-on instead of sailing over midwicket or extra cover. Googlies went un-picked. The wisdom of Afghanistan's selection was now clear to see. They had left out Hamid Hassan and Shapoor Zadran, their two most experienced quicks, and packed their side with spinners, with the finger-spin of Amir Hamza and Mohammad Nabi backing up the two leggies.
Richie Berrington missed a sweep and dragged his toe out of the crease. Matt Machan and Preston Mommsen seemed powerless to do anything beyond taking singles. Chasing 171 in a T20 game, Scotland did not, could not, score a boundary for nine overs. By the time Machan broke the spell with a straight six off Dawlat Zadran, the game had more or less slipped out of Scotland's grasp.
Later, Mommsen struggled to explain what exactly went wrong.
"We got ahead of the game, which is vital when you're chasing in T20 cricket, and unfortunately a cluster of wickets and we couldn't find any rhythm or momentum after that," he said. "To be fair, their spinners did a very good job in the middle, and we couldn't combat that.
"I think there was a period of trying to re-establish, and just rebuild, and throughout that chase we always thought we had it under control, and then it just kind of slipped away without even knowing, but yeah, that was an issue for us and something we need to address."
Mommsen admitted Scotland might have got their calculations wrong, and perhaps needed to show more urgency to keep the required rate down.
"We were trying to rebuild, obviously, with the loss of wickets there. We still felt in control. We felt that that over we needed was about to happen, and it just kind of didn't happen. We needed tens in the last five, which still felt manageable - in hindsight it wasn't. We probably should have gone a lot harder a lot earlier."

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo