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01 May 201419:47

Ghani stars in Afghanistan win

Debutant hits 68-ball 70 to help side overhaul Hong Kong's 216 by six wickets in first ACC Premier League game

Ghani stars in Afghanistan win - Cricket News

Usman Ghani, playing his first ODI for Afghanistan, did not show any signs of nervousness, as he scored 70 from 68 balls to help Afghanistan to a six-wicket win.

Afghanistan kicked off the Asian Cricket Council Premier League with a straightforward six-wicket win over Hong Kong on Thursday (May 1) in Kuala Lumpur. Oman and Nepal also registered victories against Malaysia and United Arab Emirates.

Opting to bowl first at Bayuemas Oval, Afghanistan restricted Hong Kong to 216, with Dawlat Zadran and Amir Hamza grabbing three wickets each. If Usman Ghani (70), playing his first ODI for Afghanistan, was nervous, he didn’t let it show, as he compiled 70 from 68 balls to shepherd the chase.

Afghanistan would have been eager to make amends after its showing at the ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh, and the win against Hong Kong, achieved with 41 balls to spare, served as a reminder of why it was considered among the favourites ahead of the tournament.

The intent to be positive was clear from how Noor Ali Zadran and Ghani started Afghanistan’s chase, but Noor Ali was run out for 18. Ghani, however, kept his wits about him and forged a 46-run stand with Rahmat Shah (23) for the second wicket and a 50 run-stand with Hashmatullah Shaidi for the third wicket.

Afghanistan was helped along the way by Hong Kong’s lax fielding, with five dropped catches. Ghani was the beneficiary of one such dropped chance, but it was a mere footnote in a belligerent knock that contained six fours and four sixes. By the time Nizakat Khan dismissed him, Afghanistan was well on its way, at 128 for 3 in the 26th over.

While Samiullah Shenwari hit a breezy 43, it was Shaidi’s unbeaten 38 off 67 balls, alongside captain Mohammad Nabi (18 not out), that eventually took Afghanistan across the finish line in the 44th over.

With Hong Kong still relatively new to the 50-over format, seven players were handing debuts: Ankur Sharma, Babar Hayat, Ehsan Nawaz, Haseeb Amjad, Nizakat, Tanwir Afzal and Waqas Barkat. Irfan Ahmed and Skhawat Ali saw off the first ten overs without much trouble, but Ghani ended the burgeoning opening partnership of 60 to give Afghanistan its first breakthrough. Ahmed picked Aftab Alam at deep cover and was out for 37.

Ali was joined by captain JJ Atkinson next, but the runs soon started drying up. Though both batsmen got off to decent starts, they couldn’t convert it into something more significant, falling for identical scores of 28 to Hamza’s left-arm spin.

Hong Kong was 107 for 3 at that stage, but a 48-run partnership between Nizakat and Hayat kept it afloat. When Nabi picked up the wickets of Nizakat (24) and Barkat, Hayat was left with no choice but to go for his shots.

A six off Hamza was sent into the trees in front of midwicket and he reached his half-century moments later, but the joy was short-lived. He fell for a 66-ball 53, with six fours and two sixes, as Hong Kong soon folded for 216, a total that proved insufficient in the end.