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‘Special day’ for Rashid Khan, the all-round star

Afg v Ban, Asia Cup Match 6, reaction

Rashid Khan, who turned 20 on Thursday, 20 September, celebrated by hitting a quick half-century and picking up two wickets in Afghanistan’s win over Bangladesh.

He wasn’t the only star for Afghanistan in the Asia Cup 2018 Group B match with not much at stake in actual terms, but a lot keeping in mind the Super Four stage.

Both Afghanistan and Bangladesh had already qualified for the Super Fours, and the result of the final group game had no bearing on their positions on the group table. But with the big matches coming up, form and momentum are key, and Afghanistan scored big on that front against Mashrafe Mortaza’s men at Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi with a whopping 136-run win.

Batting first after winning the toss, Afghanistan scored 255/7. Mohammad Shahzad hit 37 in 47 balls at the top, Hashmatullah Shahidi shored up the middle with a steady 58, and at the end, Gulbadin Naib and Khan swung their bats around for the big runs: Naib hit 42* in 38, and Khan 57* in 32.

Their unbroken 95-run stand gave Afghanistan the momentum heading into the break, and the bowlers then hunted as a pack to shoot Bangladesh out for just 119.

“It was a special day for me and I am really happy as I contributed in batting, bowling and fielding – we have worked hard for this and we want to continue this form,” said Khan, the Player of the Match after following up his half-century – his third in one-day internationals – with 2/13 from nine overs.

Gulbadin Naib and Rashid Khan put on 95 runs in just 9.1 overs
Gulbadin Naib and Rashid Khan put on 95 runs in just 9.1 overs

His innings was a key one. Just the other day, Phil Simmons, the Afghanistan coach, had joked while speaking about the lack of batting riches in the line-up, “… although Rashid will tell me he’s an all-rounder”. He might not quite be there yet, but the knock on Thursday was excellent.

“I wanted to bat till the end. I wanted to focus on each and every ball,” he said of his innings.

Asghar Afghan, the team captain, was also understandably pleased with the runs from his star spinner.

“It was a very important game for us. We gave two top-order wickets very easily [Ihsanullah and Rahmat Shah] and even our middle-order was poor. We weren't finishing well in the last few matches but Rashid and Naib in the last seven-eight overs finished very well today,” said Afghan.

“If we put 230-plus runs on the board it will be difficult for the opposition team as we have good fielding and extremely good bowling.”

The fielding, especially, was outstanding in the game against Bangladesh, and Khan acknowledged the contribution.

Gulbadin Naib was the other star, with a 38-ball 42 and two wickets
Gulbadin Naib was the other star, with a 38-ball 42 and two wickets

“The way we fielded was amazing. We have been working hard on our fielding as it can win the matches for you. It is all about luck in batting and bowling, but fielding is one thing that is totally in our hands and we wanted to get better,” he said.

But 256 wasn’t too high a target, even with Bangladesh missing their talismanic opener Tamim Iqbal, who is out of the tournament after fracturing his wrist in the opening game against Sri Lanka. Nazmul Hossain opened with Liton Das as a result, with the big boys coming in after that, but by the 15th over, Bangladesh were 43/4 and Khan hadn’t even started bowling.

“I come late to bowl because I can bowl dot balls and put the pressure on the batsmen,” Khan explained the strategy. “I think the wicket changes behaviour here every match so we look to stay positive in our approach. We don't want to focus too much on result. We just want to give our 100 per cent on field.”

It was Rashid Khan's third half-century in ODI cricket
It was Rashid Khan's third half-century in ODI cricket

For Bangladesh, it was a setback after the comprehensive win over Sri Lanka earlier in the tournament, and though Mortaza admitted to the disappointment at the result, he was looking ahead with optimism at the more crucial games.

“I think Afghanistan outplayed us from the 40th over in the first innings [Naib and Khan got together in the 41st over]. Our batting was not up to the mark and the bowling in last 10 overs was poor,” said Mortaza.

“We have to be fresh for tomorrow's big match [against India]. It is hard to recover from the heat and back-to-back matches; hopefully we will come up with something better tomorrow and play hard. Tamim is going back home. Mushy [Mushfiqur Rahim] had a good rest, Mustafizur [Rahman] is coming back from an injury as well, so they will play tomorrow since it is a game of consequence.”

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