Afghanistan demonstrated their expertise on the big stage was a bridge too far for Namibia two nights after running Pakistan close. Afghanistan’s most successful T20I skipper, Asghar Afghan, was given a victorious send-off into retirement as the squad won their second game in a row to retain second in Group 2.
Afghanistan swears by the blueprint of runs on the board. And their strategy has been to go all out on the powerplay thus far. On Sunday, they continued their winning ways, going 50 for 0 in the first six innings. Early on, Mohammad Shahzad was denied most of the strike and had to play second fiddle to Hazratullah Zazai. Namibia was in desperate need of wickets, with Ruben Trumpelmann coming in for a tap from the openers after taking three wickets in his opening over in their previous encounter.
Legspinner Jan Nicol Loftie-Eaton skillfully utilized angles and misdirection in flight to create a web in overs 7-10, bringing only one boundary. He tormented Rahmanullah Gurbaz with precise leg breaks before lbwing him with a full ball at the end of the 10th over. Shahzad was dismissed for 45 in the 13th over, overwhelmed by his poor shot selection and heat.
Asghar stepped out to a guard of honor from the Namibians and poked the ball around till Mohammad Nabi came out to bat in the 16th over, knowing of the necessity to take the innings deep. While Asghar appeared to be at ease picking runs, he was unable to produce huge hits, finally succumbing to a botched scoop for 31 runs off 23 batters. Afghanistan scored three fours and a six in the final two overs, all off Nabi, to end on 160 for 5, with Nabi scoring 32 runs off 17 balls.
Craig Williams toe-ended a lofted shot to mid-on for the chase’s fourth out. Then, when trying a half-hearted pull to short fine, Michael van Lingen was duped by a well-disguised back-of-the-hand slower one from Naveen-ul-Haq, which he top-edged.
Hassan is substantially slower due to multiple ailments but attempts to compensate with his control. He returned five years after his previous appearance in a T20I to take the vital wickets of Gerhard Erasmus and JJ Smit, who were crucial in completing their pursuit against Scotland. At the midway point, the chase had completely stalled.
Then Rashid Khan, who came into bowl in the eighth over, completed a period in one go, for once not leaving his captain to juggle his trump card, to end, leaving him one wicket shy of 400 T20 wickets. Except for David Wiese, none of the other Namibian batters exuded confidence. Hassan eventually took him out for a third wicket with a magnificent yorker, and the Afghan celebration was well and fully underway.