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Rashid not giving up on World-Cup slot yet

Afghanistan's path through the Super Sixes to the 2019 World Cup is a complicated one, but the legspinner wants his team to concentrate on winning their last match and then "see what happens"

Getty Images

Getty Images

"Anything can happen," Rashid Khan said, after Afghanistan's five-wicket win over UAE in their Super Sixes clash at Old Hararians Sports Club took them to four points with a game still to be played. Afghanistan have now drawn level with Ireland, and if Scotland and Zimbabwe both lose their remaining matches, and Afghanistan win their encounter with Ireland, they can still book their place in Sunday's final.
"Anything can happen. In the Super Six, it's quite difficult for anyone to go direct," Rashid said. "Till now, a single team hasn't qualified. Everyone is in doubt. That is a good thing. We just need to win the last match and see what happens."
The favourites tag seemed to weigh heavily on Afghanistan, who stumbled through the group stages with losses to Scotland, Zimbabwe and Hong Kong. Since then, however, they have kept themselves in the running with wins over West Indies and, now, UAE.
"In this Super Six, the target was to win all three matches and just see what happens," Rashid said. "Anything can happen in the match between UAE and Zimbabwe. We can only hope for the best."
Rashid's contribution with the ball was vital to Afghanistan's success over a spirited UAE side. He took 5 for 41, stalling UAE's fightback with the wickets of Shaiman Anwar for 64 and Mohammad Naveed for a quickfire 45.
"It feels good to take five-wicket haul and to contribute in the bowling department," Rashid said. "I did well in the last matches as well, but I was unlucky in not taking many wickets. Today I took wickets, and it was a good day for me.
"Initially, the ball was gripping and turning, which helped us to take early wickets. And then we put pressure on them, with dot balls, and at the end they tried to play shots and lost wickets."
Rashid also credited Gulbadin Naib and, in particular, Najibullah Zadran. Naib was named Player of the Match for his unbeaten 74, while Najibullah's 63 was his third fifty-plus score of the tournament.
"The batters also did really well," he said. "They took responsibility. Losing five wickets for 50 or 60, and chasing 180, they formed a very good partnership. They did a good job to bat to the end and win the game.
"[Najibullah] is very talented, and the way he has played in this tournament is superb. He took responsibility in the end, and that's the main thing. On these wickets, taking responsibility and playing a long innings is really good. At the end, you'll have time to hit and make some runs. He took responsibility, as he has throughout the tournament."
Rashid had also worn the extra responsibility of the captaincy in the early stages of the tournament, after regular captain Asghar Stanikzai had to undergo an emergency appendectomy. But Rashid insisted that the extra responsibility had not affected his bowling.
"I didn't feel any pressure when I was captaining and bowling. Whether I'm captain or not captain, I just try my best to enjoy myself."
UAE coach Dougie Brown suggested that the responsibility shown by Najibullah and Naib had been the difference between the two sides.
"Rashid spoke about taking responsibility, and I think the two guys at the end showed exactly what responsibility was on a pitch, which, really, there were no demons in," Brown said. "Both teams bowled exceptionally well."
Before Afghanistan play Ireland on Friday, UAE will face Zimbabwe in a clash that will likely decide the fate of several teams vying for a top-two finish. While UAE aren't in contention, Brown suggested that their experience in Zimbabwe had been a good one despite his team's inconsistency.
"It's been great. We've learned a lot. We don't often get a chance to play Full-Member teams. We are a team who are learning. We strongly believe that as a team, we're working on the right things. And on a day when we piece together 100 overs of really solid cricket, we know that we can put in a strong performance against anyone.
"In the last game against Zimbabwe, we know it's going to be a tremendous atmosphere," he added. "There's a lot riding on that game - World Cup qualification for them. And other teams as well. There will be thousands of people in there shouting for Zimbabwe. But we know that around the world there will be millions of people shouting for us. We take that positivity with us, and we're looking forward to it."

Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town