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Masakadza backs Afghanistan for “a surprise or two”

Zimbabwe captain thinks the associate side can make waves in Group

13 March 2016 14:54

Masakadza backs Afghanistan for “a surprise or two” - Cricket News

It was Afghanistan’s fifth consecutive win over Zimbabwe in as many T20Is.

If you want an idea of just how excited Afghanistan are about qualifying for the Super 10 of the World Twenty20, start by looking up ‘#Afg’ on Twitter. Most of them are selfies, and the ones Asghar Stanikzai is part of, he’s beaming ear to ear.

So it came as a surprise when the Afghanistan skipper had a poker face as walked in to the press conference room minutes after his side had defeated Zimbabwe by 59 runs on Saturday (March 12), even though the joy shone through on occasion.

“The qualifying round was very difficult because every team is really good,” said Stanikzai. “This is very important for the people of Afghanistan. We didn’t qualify for the Asia Cup so this comes at a good time.”

When asked to describe the comeback – Afghanistan went from 63 for 4 in eight overs to 186 for 6 in 20 on the back of a 98-run partnership between Samiullah Shenwari and Mohammad Nabi – Stanikzai went about it very matter-of-factly.

“Unfortunately, we lost four wickets early. After that, Shenwari and Nabi had a good partnership. Those are good signs for Afghanistan. For a long time our middle order hasn’t done well so I’m glad,” he said.

The only time Stanikzai dropped his guard was when the topic of Mohammad Shahzad’s innings came up. The portly 28-year-old was once again in smashing touch as he dismantled Zimbabwe’s bowlers at the top with a blistering 40 from 23 balls with seven fours and a six. Only after his dismissal did Afghanistan struggle a bit.

When he was around, he looked close to delivering on something he had said not too long ago. “I have already scored one century against them (Zimbabwe). Inshallah I will score one against them when we play them next,” he had said after Afghanistan’s first-round opener.

“Shahzad enjoys his cricket every time, and he’s in an aggressive mood every time,” laughed Stanikzai. “We give him the freedom to play his own game and not to take on responsibility because when Shahzad takes responsibility it’s not good for him.”

While Stanikzai chose to look calm in a joyous moment, Hamilton Masakadza looked downbeat trying to digest what had transpired. “We just didn’t turn up today,” said Masakadza. “We were totally outplayed from the start of the game to the finish, so really disappointed about the outcome today. We came out with high expectations but didn’t compete.”

This was Afghanistan’s fifth consecutive win over Zimbabwe in as many Twenty20 Internationals. The previous four, which came across two T20I series, had Zimbabwe come close on a couple of occasions, but this time they were outplayed thoroughly.

“Obviously, the results haven’t gone our way but they haven’t really outplayed us as they have today,” offered Masakadza. “We’ve always been close, and some of the games we should have won, but just a couple of errors that let us down. But, yeah, today they really outplayed us.

“I think they will beat one or two teams, definitely. They are a little bit better suited to Asian conditions than the other guys, and on their day they can really pull out a good game, so I think just looking at the rest of the tournament, they could pull out a surprise or two.”