It was yet another case of so-close-yet-so-far for Afghanistan. After being unable to defend ten runs in the last over in their previous game against Pakistan, the Afghan side needing eight to win off six balls at Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi fell short by an agonising three runs against Bangladesh on Sunday.With Bangladesh setting Afghanistan a 250-run target, the game ebbed and flowed in both directions all through before Mohammad Nabi (38 in 28) and Samiullah Shenwari (23* in 19) got their side to the brink. But, left-arm seamer Mustafizur Rahman once again proved why he is rated so highly in world cricket as he delivered a nerveless last over to keep his side alive in the tournament and set up a virtual semi-final clash against Pakistan on Wednesday.
A visibly relieved Masrafe Mortaza later revealed that Rahman had a cramp in his calf due to which he was unable to nail the yorkers, making his feat even more special.
“End of the match, Mustafiz was a magician,” said the Bangladesh captain at the post-match presentation ceremony. “We have lost so many matches where we couldn’t score 8-9 runs but we defended it today.
“We hadn’t given up – Shakib bowled really well in his last three balls. After that, we told Mustafiz to look for wickets because they would have missed it.
“Mustafiz cramped a bit, we wanted him to bowl 10 overs but he couldn’t. Couldn’t even bowl yorkers because he had a cramp in his calf. Hopefully, we’ll have a good crack at the virtual semi-final.”
Afghanistan started the game on a positive note reducing Bangladesh to 87 for 5 in the 21st over. However, Mahmudullah and Imrul Kayes then got together and the duo took it upon themselves to get their side to a decent score carving a 128-run partnership for the sixth wicket.
Kayes, playing his first game of the tournament scored an unbeaten 72 while his senior partner scored a brisk 74 as Bangladesh reached 249 for 7. Mahmudullah then picked up the key wicket of Mohammad Shahzad (53) as well, and was awarded the Man-of-the-Match award for his efforts.
“Weather was hot and I was feeling a bit dried up. It always feels happy to contribute to the team,” said Mahmuduallah after the game. “Me and Imrul had a good partnership. We were trying to get to the end.
“Credit must go to Mustafiz. We knew they had some good hitters and they held their nerve well but in the end, we came out on top, so a good team effort. We have to bring our A-game for the Pakistan match.”
For the Afghanistan camp, it was yet another heartbreak. Asghar Afghan, the captain rued the missed chance but insisted that his side had learnt a lot after playing against full-member nations.
“Painful game. 8 off 6 is not difficult because Rashid, Nabi, Shenwari can do it. But I will give credit to him (Mustafizur Rahman), he bowled his variations,” said Asghar.
“Everything was going to plan. Again we lost in the last over. Again the batsmen going for big shots at the end, which didn’t work. We have learnt a lot, especially because we are playing against full-members.”
First Published: September 24, 2018, 4:16 AM IST