Sharjah: Afghanistan put up a spectacular show to announce to the world that they are worthy of a place among the top cricketing nations in the world.
Through a spirited performance they made the mighty Australians sweat it out at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium before losing the match by 66 runs.
Riding on Asghkar Satnikzai ‘s knock of 66 runs and Mohammad Nabi’s classy 46 runs, they almost chased Australia’s total of 272 for 8 in 50 overs.
Australians won the toss and elected to bat against a determined Afghanistan attack. Opening bowlers Shapoor Zadran and Dawlat Zadran bowled their heart out at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium’s grass- less wicket.
Australian openers Matthew Wade and David Warner put on 37 runs in 6.5 overs when Warner, trying to chop a short of a length delivery from Shapoor edged to wicketkeeper Mohammad Shahzad for 24.
Skipper Michael Clarke joined Wade and picked the right balls to score. By the 15th over, Australians scored 71 runs at a run rate of 4.73 runs per over.
Off break bowler Karim Sadiq and leg break bowler Samiullah Shenwari bowled a tight length making the batsmen really work hard for the runs. The bowlers were backed by excellent fielding which was cheered loudly by the fans.
Clarke hit the first six of the match when he swung Shenwari’s full toss into the stands over deep square legs. He accelerated his run rate and raced past Wade to reach his 53rd half century. Wade too reached his fourth half century and by the 33rd over reached the 150 run mark.
Eighteen runs later, Mohammad Nabi provided the breakthrough forcing Wade to offer a return catch. Wade’s 73 runs came off 108 balls with two boundaries and one six and he put on 131 runs with Clarke from 28 overs for the second wicket.
Nabi struck again forcing debutant Glenn Maxwell to hit straight into the hands of Najibullah Zadran for 2.
The spectacular knock of Clarke too came to an end when Shenwari forced Clarke to come down the wicket but miss the ball for wicketkeeper Shahzad to do the rest. Clarke’s 75 runs came off 94 balls with three boundaries and two sixers.
This left the stage for Hussey brothers David and Michael to go for the kill in the last 12 overs with Australia at 181 for 4. A brilliant display of fielding from Nabi and a direct hit at the stumps ended David’s knock for 13.
George Bailey who joined Michael put on 53 runs in five overs to swell the total before Zadran bowled Bailey for 23. Sadiq clean bowled Michael for 49 and Pattinson for 1 to restrict Australia to 272 for 8.
Chasing a run rate of 5.44, Afghanistan opener Karim Sadiq hit James Pattinson’s first delivery of the innings for a boundary to mid wicket. With the last ball of the second over, Mitchell Starc clean bowled Javed Ahmadi for a duck.
Sadiq hit Starc for two boundaries in the fourth over while Asghar Stanikzai cracked Pattinson past point for a boundary. Starc took revenge with a beautiful delivery that nipped back to hit Sadiq’s off stump for 17.
Afghanistan consistent batsman Mohammad Shahzad joined Stanikzai and the crowd clapped for every stroke from them. With the score on 49 for 2 by 11th over, Afghanistan looked like taking up the challenge when Shahzad edged Pattinson to wicketkeeper Wade for 11. Skipper Nawroz Mangal lasted just two balls before being trapped leg before by Pattinson for a duck.
Mohammad Nabi and Stanikzai settled down and by the half way mark Afghanistan were 94 for 5, still needing 179 to win.
Nabi stepped out and hit Maxwell over the bowler’s head for a six. They slowly but beautifully accelerated the run flow. The pair put on 86 runs in 19.1 over when Mitchell Johnson provided the breakthrough, clean bowling Nabi for 46. His knock came off 60 balls contained three fours and four sixers.
Stanikzai hit Starc for three boundaries in the 36th over. When Afghanistan needed just 108 more runs from 84 balls, he suffered from cramps and rolled in pain on the ground.
Next ball he hit Starc to mid wicket and Clarke moving to his left took a good catch. This dismissal ended the hopes of Afghanistan team too but 28 runs ninth wicket partnership between Gulbodin Naib (22) and Dawlat Zadran (8) pulled their team closer to the target.