26 February 2015
Shenwari rescues Afghanistan for historic win
His 96 lifts team from 97 for 7 for dramatic one-wicket win after Scotland posts 210
Samiullah Shenwari scored a stubborn 96 to help Afghanistan clinch a one-wicket win.
At the world’s southernmost cricketing outpost, Thursday (February 26) dawned crisp and sunny, and while the sun bore down hard through clear blue skies, a cool southerly blew incessantly off the seas, as if in reminder that Antarctica was not all that far away. At the University Oval in Dunedin, the two teams mirrored the elements, blowing alternately hot and cold.
And, while the Scots were much the same, Afghanistan took this two-facedness to a ridiculous extreme covering the gamut from brilliant to mediocre and back, sealing a one-wicket in one of the most dramatic games of cricket you will see in a long time.
Samiullah Shenwari played the kind of World Cup innings Brian Lara would’ve been proud of, singlehandedly lifting his side from the depths of depression to within kissing distance of victory. Coming to the crease with the score on 46 for 2, and watching the scoreboard slip to 97 for 7, Shenwari (96) did not leave till the 47th over, when one booming slogsweep too many missed the meat of the bat and floated down the throat of the long-on fielder. With 19 still needed, though, Scotland was back in the game.
Shapoor Zadran, the tall left-arm quick, batted with composure, and when he tucked the final ball of the penultimate over past the fine-leg fielder to the fence, Afghanistan was left needing 5 from the last over.
Iain Wardlaw, Scotland’s spearhead, conceded a single off the first ball. Rapped on the pads off the second, Shapoor wandered nervously down the pitch and would have been well run out if Matt Machan’s under-arm throw had hit the target. The third ball was a leg-stump full-toss, and Shapoor flicked it ever so elegantly to seal the deal.
After being set a modest target of 211 – and this was courtesy Scotland’s best batting effort in a World Cup match – Afghanistan began strongly. Javed Ahmadi bossed over the bowling. Nawroze Mangal was more subdued, and did not receive as much of the strike, getting to 7 off 13 before a slightly lazy stroke was beaten by a ball from Alasdair Evans that came back in just enough to castle the batsman.
Asghar Stanikzai played forward to a ball that was just back of a length, and lifted, the edge fairly flying through to the keeper. The big wicket, though, was of Ahmadi (51). Coming down the track to the medium pace of Richie Berrington, Ahmadi went through his big stroke, and the ball went high rather than far, to be easily caught.
Afghanistan then lost five wickets for the addition of only nine runs. Berrington was the chief beneficiary, scalping 3 for 9 in the space of 19 balls.
Shenwari was left to plough a lone furrow as six batsmen either side of him departed for single-digit scores. At 97 for 7, Afghanistan would have felt that heartbreak was around the corner. Playing at a different plane, Shenwari kept the game alive, first blocking so determinedly that Scotland was forced to take its foot off the pedal and then picking off the big hits as surely as a sniper would coconuts from 50 yards away. Under pressure, this was an innings of great heart, and Shenwari certainly deserved to end on the winning side.
Earlier, Afghanistan had bowled with skill and fielded with spirit.
The tone was set early on by Calum McLeod, who cut a rank long-hop straight to the man at point. Hamish Gardiner did not have too much success, playing down the wrong line and Scotland was in a spot of bother.
This grew into full-fledged trouble when Kyle Coetzer played an airy drive against Dawlat Zadran. The bowler had kept the ball full enough for it to swing, and the white Kookaburra duly obliged, bending in to exploit the gap between bat and pad and trigger the stumps.
Matt Machan and Peter Mommsen set about picking up the pieces of the innings, and although neither batsman was able to dominate the bowling, a sense of normalcy returned to the proceedings. Afghanistan did not go on the defensive at any stage, and its perpetual search for wickets soon bore fruit.
Machan, who had been busy enough to get 31 from 28 balls through safe strokes suddenly favoured adventurism and the move backfired. Giving himself room to clear cover, Machan missed and the off stump was pegged back.
Even before Machan could take his seat in the dressing-room, his captain was beside him, Mommsen (23) feathering a nick off Gulbadin Naib.
Matthew Cross looked promising for a time, but Shapoor produced a peach, a bit of extra bounce coupled with the ball straightening from around the stumps doing more than enough to kiss the edge. Diving full length to his right, Zazai plucked the ball out of the air one-handed, capping off an excellent passage of play.
Berrington provided the resistance, at No. 6, making 25 before the Shapoor-Zazai firm was back in business and Scotland was 144 for 8.
To their credit, Scotland’s bowlers put a price on their wickets, not once choosing to go down in a blaze of glory. Instead, valuable runs were added drip by drip. Majid Haq (31) and Evans (28) combined in a 62-run ninth-wicket stand, the best for Scotland in all ODIs and even managed a mini flourish late in the innings to take their team to 210. In the end, it just wasn’t enough.
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