Abu Dhabi: Birthday boy Rashid Khan’s late cameo and some impressive bowling by Afghanistan helped them to register a massive 136-run win over Bangladesh in their Group B clash of the ongoing Asia Cup here at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium on Thursday.
After winning the toss and electing to bat first, Afghanistan started their innings on a stuttering note as Bangladeshi pacer Abu Hider sent back opener Ihsanullah (8) and last match’s hero Rahmat Shah (10) in the first six overs.
Explosive wicket-keeper Mohammad Shehzad (37) then played cautiously and stitched a crucial 51-run partnership with Hashmatullah Shahidi to stabilise Afghanistan’s innings before all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan accounted for the former.
Afghanistan captain Asghar Afghan’s poor show with the bat continued as he completely misjudged a Shakib delivery, only to see the timber being shattered. He was dismissed cheaply for eight runs.
The innings was further dented as Shakib tormented the middle and lower order to leave Afghanistan struggling at 160 for 7 at 41 overs and looking in danger of being bowled out for under 200 runs.
However, Rashid, who turned 20 on Thursday, had other plans, as he and Gulbadin Naib led a counterattack to revive the faltering innings.
Rashid, who had also played such cameos during the Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament this year, smashed eight boundaries and a six to leave the Bangladeshi bowlers in tatters. Naib also played the second hand and scored a valuable unbeaten 42, that was laced with five boundaries. The unbeaten 95-run partnership between the two lifted Afghanistan from a lowly 160 for 7 to a competitive total of 255 runs.
While Shakib scalped four for 42, Hider took two for 50 and Rubel Hossain finished with one for 32 for Bangladesh.
Chasing a target of 256 runs, Bangladeshi batsmen never looked comfortable as Afghan pacers and spinners, particularly, choked them for runs. Bangladesh kept on losing wickets at regular intervals as the spinning duo of Rashid and Mujeeb Ur Rahman bowled tight lines to deny a lease of life for the batsmen.
Only Shakib (32), Mahmudallah (27) and Mosaddek Hossain (26*) managed to reach double digits as other batsmen fell like a pack of cards. Both Rashid and Mujeeb used different types of variations to fox the batsmen as Bangladesh huffed and puffed throughout the innings and were bowled out for 119 in 42. 1 overs, handing Afghanistan a massive win and a big boost to them ahead of the Super Fours stage.
Rashid was adjudged Man of the Match for his all-round performance. With this, Afghanistan topped the Group B and became the second team after India to finish unbeaten in the group stages, winning both matches.
While Rashid was the standout bowler, due to an impressive economy rate (1.44), Naib (two for 30) and Mujeeb (two for 22) also took two wickets each for Afghanistan. Also, Aftab Alam (one for 11), Mohammad Nabi (one for 24) and Shah (one for 7) all chipped in with a wicket each.
While Afghanistan will face Pakistan on Sunday, Bangladesh will next lock horns with India in Dubai on Friday in the Super Four stage of the prestigious tournament.