Having lost their previous game, Afghanistan made a strong comeback with a 62-run win in their Group 2 game against Namibia in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021.
Afghanistan gave Asgar Afghan the perfect sendoff in his last match as they bowled brilliantly to restrict Namibia’s reply to 98/9, defending 161, in their Super 12 clash in Abu Dhabi. The win takes Afghanistan into second spot in the Group 2 standings, behind Pakistan who are on top with six points.
Generally known for their fantastic spin bowlers, it was the pacers this time that led from the front with the ball, with Naveen-ul-Haq and Hamid Hassan scalping three wickets each while Gulbadin Naib picked up two.
Earlier, Mohammad Nabi once again played a crucial cameo for Afghanistan at the back end of the innings as his 17-ball 32* powered the team to 160. Afghanistan finished strongly in the death, scoring 46 runs in the last four overs as Namibia bowlers were guilty of bowling a few too many loose balls.
Afghanistan skipper Mohammad Nabi won the toss and opted to bat first against Namibia in Abu Dhabi, backing their strength to put runs on board despite chasing being the norm so far in the tournament.
Hazratullah Zazai batted brilliantly in the Powerplay for Afghanistan, scoring the majority of the runs as the openers brought up their 50-run partnership inside the first six overs.
Zazai set the ball rolling with a four and a six in the first over, taking on Ruben Trumpelmann who missed his line and length twice and was punished. JJ Smit and David Wiese kept things quiet in the next two overs, but once Trumpelmann was back into the attack, Zazai once again took the attack to the left-arm seamer with two more fours.
Afghanistan made up for the two sedate over, with Zazai and Mohammad Shahzad smacking a six and a four each in the next two overs to take Afghanistan’s Powerplay score to 50.
JJ Smit returned after the fielding restrictions were lifted and broke through for Namibia, with Zazai holing out in the deep. Rahmanullah Gurbaz’s stay at the crease did not last too long as he missed the sweep completely and was trapped in front by Loftie-Eaton.
Shahzad tried to up the ante after the drinks break, smashing a six and a four before Trumpelmann struck to send him back into the pavilion.
The wicket, however, did not change Afghanistan’s approach and they kept finding the boundaries in the death overs.
Asghar Afghan, playing his last game for his country, kept the momentum going along with Mohammad Nabi. The two batters found the boundary thrice in the 17th over bowled by JJ Smit. Nabi took Trumpelmann to the cleaners in the next over, as he smacked a six and a four off consecutive deliveries.
The left-arm seamer finished the over on a high, getting the wicket of Afghan in his last game. Wiese erred in his length twice in the final over and Nabi gleefully accepted the loose balls as he put them away to the boundary to take Afghanistan to 160.
Craig Williams was the first to make the long walk back in the reply as he skied a pull straight to the fielder at mid-off in the first over. Naveen then outfoxed Michael van Lingen with a clever slower ball. Charging down the track, Van Lingen went through with the pull but only mistimed it to Hamid Hassan at square leg.
It went from bad to worse for Namibia as Jan Nicol Loftie-Eaton was cleaned up by Gulbadin Naib by the slower one as the Eagles finished the Powerplay at 29/3.
Rashid Khan was introduced earlier into the attack and struck with his first ball, with Zane Green completely missing the paddle sweep.
David Wiese and Gerhard Erasmus were left to rebuild the innings but struggled to find the ropes as Namibia finished with only four boundaries in the first 10 overs, still needing 106 from the remaining 10.
Eventually, the pressure of the asking rate got to the Namibia batters as they fell one after another trying to go big. While David Wiese kept one end stable, he kept losing partners at the other end.
Hamid Hassan, who replaced Mujeeb Ur Rahman and was playing his first T20I since 2016, dashed Namibia’s hope of a fightback, snaring the wickets of Erasmus and JJ Smit in the same over.
Naveen returned to the attack and picked up his third wicket of the day, as Jan Frylinck fell trying to up the scoring. Gulbadin too got another chance to flex his muscles, as another Namibian batter, Pikky Ya France this time, fell for the slower ball.
Hassan made his return to the team even more memorable, picking up his third wicket by ending Wiese’s resistance. He finished with sensational figures of 3/9 that fetched the Player of the Match award in Afghanistan’s 62-run win.