Sharjah: Australia may have won the Etisalat Afghanistan Cup, but Afghanistan won hearts with a spectacular display of fighting cricket at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Saturday night.
In the first ever one-day match between the two sides — which also created history by starting at 6pm and finishing the next day at 1.45am, to become the first One Day International to run into a second day — Australia won by 66 runs.
Afghanistan made the Australians sweat it out in the hot and humid conditions. Riding on Asghar Stanikzai’s knock of 66 off 106 balls with six boundaries and Mohammad Nabi’s classy 46 off 60 balls with three boundaries and four sixes, Afghanistan went off in hot pursuit of Australia’s total of 272 for 8 in their 50 overs.
For Australia, skipper Michael Clarke and Matthew Wade hit 75 each. Clarke’s 75 came off 94 balls and included three boundaries and two sixes, while Wade’s knock off 108 balls had two fours and one six. Together they put on 131 from 28 overs for the second wicket
Clarke won the toss and elected to bat against a determined Afghanistan attack. Opening bowlers Shapoor Zadran and Dawlat Zadran bowled their hearts out on Sharjah’s grass-less wicket.
Australian openers Wade and David Warner put on 37 runs in 6.5 overs before Warner, trying to chop a short of a length delivery from Shapoor, edged to wicketkeeper Mohammad Shahzad for 24.
No 3 Clarke hit the first six of the match when he swung Shenwari’s full toss into the stands over deep square leg. He raced past Wade to reach his 53rd ODI half-century, before Wade also passed 50. By the 33rd over, Australia had reached the 150-run mark.
Eighteen runs later, Mohammad Nabi provided the breakthrough, forcing Wade to offer a return catch. Shenwari then tempted Clarke to come down the wicket but miss the ball, allowing wicketkeeper Shahzad to stump him.
This set the stage for Hussey brothers David and Mike to go for the kill in the last 12 overs, with Australia at 181 for 4. But a brilliant effort and direct hit by Nabi ran out David for 13.
George Bailey and Mike Hussey put on 53 runs in five overs to swell the total before Zadran bowled Bailey for 23. Sadiq clean bowled Hussey for 49 and Pattinson for one 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 midwicket. But with the last ball of the second over, Mitchell Starc bowled Javed Ahmadi for a duck.
Sadiq hit Starc for two boundaries in the fourth over, while 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’s consistent batsman Mohammad Shahzad joined Stanikzai and the crowd clapped for every stroke from them. With the score on 49 for 2 by the 11th over, Afghanistan looked like taking up the challenge, only for Shahzad to edge Pattinson to wicketkeeper Wade for 11.
Skipper Nawroz Mangal lasted just two balls before being trapped leg before by Pattinson for a duck.
Nabi and Stanikzai settled down quickly, with Nabi stepping out and hitting Glenn Maxwell over the bowler’s head for a six. They slowly but beautifully accelerated the run flow, with the pair adding 86 in 19.1 overs before Mitchell Johnson provided the breakthrough, bowling Nabi for 46.
Stanikzai hit Starc for three boundaries in the 36th over, but when Afghanistan needed 108 more runs from the last 84 balls, he suffered from cramps and rolled in pain on the ground. Next ball he hit Starc to midwicket and Clarke, moving to his left, took a good catch.
Stanikzai’s dismissal ended Afghanistan’s hopes, but a 28-run ninth-wicket partnership between Gulbodin Naib (22) and Dawlat Zadran (8) pulled their team closer to the target.