Afghanistan v Nepal at Penang Sports Club, Penang

 

An incredible game of fluctuating fortunes saw a rampaging Afghanistan overcome Nepal by 49 runs.

From the moment Asghar Hotak of Afghanistan walked into bat with his team in dire straits at 35 for 7 in the 21st over the game turned around completely.

Nepal had reduced Afghanistan to that state with some fast, stump-directed bowling. Asghar played as if the score was 135 for 7, however, and with Aimal Wafa (32 off 75 deliveries), put on 85 runs in the next 20 overs. Asghar was particularly strong off the front-foot and though he offered a couple of sharp chances, one early on in his innings, his batting was remarkable for the strength and ease of his strokes. He hit five fours and four sixes, some of the sixes fit to be ranked amongst the biggest hits ever seen in Penang. He was watchful in defence too, as Nepal never really made things too easy for the Afghan batsman.

However, Afghanistan truly ran away with the game and inflicted some devastating psychological damage when Asghar and Izzatullah Rabani (21 off 8 balls) smashed 56 runs off the last twenty deliveries. It totally demoralised the Nepali team and when at one stage they would have thought they'd be chasing 150, they had to now score 177 to win.

Not that Nepal weren't capable of making those runs, but the balance of the match had irrevocably turned and the force was with Afghanistan. Izzatullah bowled Dipen Shrestha through the gate, beaten by pace, and then did the very same to Sunam Gautam two balls later.

Nepal are nothing if not fighters, however, and a fourth wicket-stand of 52 between captain Gyanendra Malla and Nirmal Simangaida revived them. They were never quite up with the required run-rate as the Afghan bowlers and fielders pressed. Malla was on on 48, having struck seven fours, when he was caught in the covers looking to force the pace. At that stage, Nepal needed to score at close to seven an over the last ten overs and the task proved too much for them.

The Afghanistan coach, Taj Malik was delighted with his team's performance. "It is a warning to all the other teams that we will never give up in our wish to win."

Scorecard

Filed August 6 2005