Afghanistan sent a strong message to both India and New Zealand as the Mohammad Nabi-led side obliterated Namibia in Abu Dhabi to consolidate second spot in the Group 2 table. Batting first, Afghanistan scored 160, and then restricted Namibia to 98 to register a 62-run victory and make it 2 wins in 3 matches. The result means that Afghanistan, with regards to qualification, have their fate in their own hands.
Zazai, Shahzad get Afghanistan off to a flyer, but Namibia pull things back
Hazratullah Zazai and Mohammad Shahzad are two batters for whom ‘holding back’ is a term that is non-existent, and the duo, as is the case with them in every single game, did not hold back. Well, at least Zazai didn’t.
The left-hander struck a huge maximum in just the fifth ball of the match, and kept going throughout the powerplay, despite Namibia devising effective plans to counter his threat. Zazai faced 25 of the 36 balls in the powerplay and raced off to 32, and his onslaught, which was, mind you, not quite fluent, helped the side reach 50/0 inside the first six overs. With Shahzad also looking good on 17*, another huge total looked on the cards.
But against the run of play, Namibia pulled things back once the field restrictions were lifted. Zazai perished in the first over post the powerplay, and his dismissal was what Namibia needed to restore sanity. Gurbaz walked in, and with two right-handers in the middle, leg-spinner Loftie-Eaton kept a lid on the scoring, with him also getting plenty of assistance from the wicket. Loftie-Eaton’s first 10 balls cost just 5 runs, and the pressure eventually got to Gurbaz, who was trapped plumb in front after a failed sweep attempt.
Asghar Afghan, playing his last ever international game, walked out to a guard of honour, but at 69/2 at the end of 10 overs, he had plenty to do.
Afghan, Nabi steer Afghanistan to 160
Namibia continued to bowl with discipline in the second half of the Afghanistan innings, and they earned their third scalp in the 13th over, as Shahzad perished for a not-so-fluent 45. The left-hander Najib Zadran walked in at No.5, but he too had a game to forget as he walked back to the pavilion for a 11-ball 7, after being trapped in front by young leggie Loftus-Eaton, who at no point stopped impressing.
But just as the innings was starting to lose steam, Afghanistan, almost fittingly, were pushed to an excellent total by the two most senior members in the side - skipper Mohammad Nabi and the departing Asghar Afghan.
Both Afghan and Nabi kept finding the boundaries at regular intervals, and while Afghan had a fair bit of luck, Nabi simply out-powered the Namibia bowlers. Together the duo put together 35 off just 3.2 overs, and the partnership swung the momentum in favor of Afghanistan, who eventually finished on 160/5, the third-highest batting-first total of the Super 12 stage.
It was, in particular, an emotional knock for Afghan, who after departing for 31, walked back wiping tears to a second guard of honor, albeit this time only from the Afghanistan players.
Nabi remained unbeaten on 32* (17) and Afghanistan walked back to the dressing room as the side with the upper hand, on a wicket that did look particularly slow.
Seamers run-through top-order to peg Namibia back
Chasing 161 was going to be a tough ask, particularly against this Afghanistan attack, and what Namibia needed was a good start. But that did not happen, and, surprisingly, it was the Afghan seamers who did the damage. On the back of an impressive showing against Pakistan, Naveen-ul-Haq made his presence known very early in the game, and struck twice inside the first three overs, through clever variations, to reduce Namibia to 16/2.
That soon became 36/4, courtesy wickets from Gulbadin Naib and Rashid Khan, and in the blink of an eye, the Gerhard Erasmsus-led side were teetering.
The skipper and the team’s most experienced player, David Wiese, remained intact at the end of the 10-over mark, but at the halfway stage, Namibia needed 106 off the final 10, with Afghanistan’s trump cards - Rashid and Naveen - still having 4 overs up their sleeves.
Hamid-inspired Afghanistan blow Namibia away to consolidate second spot
Heading into the second phase of the innings, Namibia had a chance, albeit a very small one. But that was erased in no time by veteran Hamid Hassan, who destroyed the Namibians’ hopes through a stunning double-strike.
Taking the ball in the 11th over, Hamid dismissed Erasmus and JJ Smit in the span of four balls, and both the deliveries were a fast-bowler’s dream. Ball one, bowled to Erasmus, was an unplayable, pacey yorker which shattered the stumps, and the second dismissal, that of Smit, was a snorter of an effort-ball which bamboozled the batter. The double-strike from the 34-year-old, whose last T20I appearance came in the 2016 World T20, destroyed Namibia’s hopes.
Afghanistan eventually were not able to bowl Namibia out, but, nevertheless, registered a handsome 62-run victory to consolidate second spot in Group 2.