Shenwari and Stanikzai power their team's maiden win against a Test playing nation as Bangladesh come a cropper
It was supposed to be underdogs. It was supposed to revel in the joy of just participating in a tournament as big as the Asia Cup. It was supposed to fight pluckily, but ultimately not win even against Bangladesh, who was on home ground after all, at Fatullah.
The memo seemed to have escaped Afghanistan who romped to a historic first win against a Test playing nation on Saturday (March 1), beating Bangladesh by 32 runs the Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium.
Samiullah Shenwari will remember this day and be remembered by Afghanistan. After first striking 81 off 69 in a counter-attacking stand with Asghar Stanikzai (90 not out off 103), Shenwari ripped his leg-breaks to take 1 for 23 for a bowling attack that hunted as a pack. Afghanistan’s 254 for 6 eventually proved too much for Bangladesh, who folded for 222 all out in 47.5 overs, despite the nerves that suddenly afflicted the Afghan fielders when history stared them in the face and beckoned them closer.
Several catches were dropped and misfields abounded, but eventually, Afghanistan had enough on the board.
There were two parts to Afghanistan’s victory. The first involved a record 164-run stand off just 138 balls between Shenwari and Stanikzai that lifted the team from the depths of 90 for 5 to a commanding score. The second featured bowlers who showed skill and nous while getting on top of the Bangladesh batsmen, and then a team that battled nerves when victory was in sight. Bangladesh was offered repeated get-out-of-jail cards, and nearly made Afghanistan pay.
Shenwari and Stanikzai had come together in the 27th over with Afghanistan in danger of being bowled out rather quickly. Their initial focus was on consolidation and ensuring it lasted the full quota of overs. Barring Stanikzai, the entire top order was back in the hut including Mohammad Nabi, the captain, and Nawroz Mangal, the vice-captain. While Mangal was caught short of his crease leaving Afghanistan 74 for 4 to cut short a recovery from 43 for 3, Nabi was the fifth wicket to fall, caught in the slips.
Stanikzai, who had found it hard to force the pace against Pakistan in his team’s previous game, seemed to follow that pattern here. Though Shenwari started more fluently, the runs came sluggishly at the start of what would become a match-winning stand.
After 39 overs, Afghanistan was 137 for 5, when without warning, the batsmen stepped on the gas and sped away, leaving Bangladesh gaping. Both Stanikzai and Shenwari revealed unseen batting gears and every single bowler came in for punishment in the death overs. Stanikzai clobbered three sixes, the first of which took him to his half-century. Not to be outdone, Shenwari reached his own fifty three balls later, smashing Abdur Razzaq to the point fence.
The boundaries never stopped with 117 runs coming in 10.5 overs before Shenwari was run out off the penultimate ball, running across when Stanikzai failed to connect, while the batsman didn’t respond.
He returned to a jubilant dressing room, who knew that they had witnessed something extraordinary.
Left with a much steeper chase than they would have imagined, Bangladesh faltered at the start. Shapoor Zadran, working up a good pace and an awkward angle from his left-arm over the wicket line, got one to pitch on a length and nip back to tail through the gap between Shamsur Rahman’s bat and pad in the first over. In the next over, Hamid Hassan rapped Anamul Haque on the pads and suddenly Bangladesh was in a hole at 1 for 2 with the openers gone.
Mushfiqur Rahim, who played in the match after being under an injury cloud, joined Mominul Haque in a rebuilding effort. The duo did raise 68 runs, but weren’t allowed to get away by Nabi’s offspin and Mirwais Ashraf’s clever medium-pace.
Nabi got his opposite number, trapping Rahim in front when he played across the line, and Mominul perished a ball after reaching his half-century, with Shenwari getting one to drift away even as the batsman stepped out, was beaten and saw his stumps pegged back leaving Bangladesh 88 for 4 in 24.3 overs.
With Bangladesh on the ropes and history in its sight, Afghanistan fumbled. There followed several misfields and dropped chances, and Nasir Hossain in particular, led a charmed life, being dropped as many as four times. He put on 74 in 14.3 overs with Naeem Islam, when a manic passage of play saw three wickets fall in three balls – one to a run-out – across two overs.
In the blink of an eye, Bangladesh was tottering at 165 for 8 and Afghanistan even started thinking of a bonus point. There were further twists left though, with Ziaur Rahman, the big-built allrounder, again benefitting from a dropped chance and generous fielding to smash 41 off 22.
Ziaur took Bangladesh past the bonus point target, and even raised the increasingly silent crowd’s spirits with meaty blows, but was undone by Nabi. Sohag Gazi, with four stitches on his hand courtesy a split webbing while fielding, came out to join Rubel Hossain.
The end came when Rubel hit Nabi to Mangal at the midwicket fence, sparking celebrations and relief in equal measure. Nabi, who took 3 for 44 was his side’s best bowler, only fitting in such a seminal win.