Mohammad Nabi delivered a superb spell of 4 for 20 as Afghanistan restricted Hong Kong to a paltry 116, after losing the toss, and being asked to bowl by Tanwir Afzal. In what was a complete all-round bowling effort, all the bowlers used conceded under seven runs an over, with Gulabdin Naib’s acceptable 6.50 being the most expensive of the lot. Hamid Hassan, Dawlat Zadran and Rashid Khan all pitched in to keep things tight though they picked up a solitary wicket among themselves. Mohammad Shahzad and Noor Ali Zadran then featured in a brisk opening stand of 70 as Afghanistan eased to victory, in the group B match at Nagpur.
After a promising start, in which the openers added 40 inside six overs, Hong Kong capitulated as Nabi was in top flight. The downfall for Hong Kong began with the wicket of Ryan Campbell for 27. He went in the most unfortunate fashion, as a sweep shot off Nabi, saw the ball lobbing into the helmet, and then rolling back on to the stumps. In the same over, Babar Hayat gave his wicket away, hitting one straight to midwicket. Jamie Atkinson broke the sequence of boundary-less balls, by pulling Rashid Khan past short fine leg. But, ended up falling to the same bowler, trying to flick the bowler late, but missing the ball altogether, and getting his furniture disturbed.
Nabi returned to claim Nizakat Khan as he fired one wide after seeing the bowler charge down the track. The keeper Mohammad Shahzad did the rest. Nabi got his fourth wicket when he had Kinchit Shah caught and bowled. The batsman tried to hoick one, but the leading edge went towards midwicket, where Nabi himself ran across and held the catch. At the other end, Naib got the scalp of Mark Chapman with an absolutely brilliant yorker that zipped under the bat. As the wickets kept falling, Anshuman Rath held one end up, and finished unbeaten on 28, to take Hong Kong past the 100-run mark.
In response, Afghanistan got off to a slow but steady start reaching 30 in the first five overs. In the last of the Power Play overs, Shahzad broke loose, spanking Nadeen Ahmed over cover for a four, and then clubbing him over midwicket for a maximum. When Rath was brought on, Shahzad greeted him with a six over long-on. Aizaz Khan was the next to suffer as the batsman dabbed him to the third man fence. Shahzad had eased his way to 41 when he hit Campbell down long-off’s throat. Nabi came in and smashed the same bowler for a couple of fours before going for a massive slog and getting clean bowled. Afghanistan lost a couple of more wickets as the pressure eased, before Najibullah Zadran hit three fours to secure an easy win for Afghanistan.
--By A Cricket Correspondent