AFGHANISTAN BLAST PAST SAUDI ARABIA

ACC Trophy Elite 2008
Afghanistan v Saudi Arabia

Noor Ali Noori

A scorching hot day at Kinrara and a scorching hot innings from Afghanistan’s Noor Ali Noori saw Afghanistan put themselves in with a chance to qualify for the ACC Trophy Elite semi-finals.

On a good sporting wicket, Saudi Arabia had no hesitation in choosing to bat first. However, next to the UAE in the competition, Afghanistan have the best opening bowlers. With Daulat Ahmadzai and Hasti Gul moving the ball both ways off the deck at pace, Saudi Arabia's top-order struggled. Behind them Hamid Hassan found terrific lift and carry. Saudi Arabia’s captain Sarfraz Ahmed carefully rebuilt the innings with Abid Naseem but with Ahmed’s departure, caught behind, Afghanistan were back on top.

Saudi Arabia were 97 for 6 in the 33rd over when Afghanistan let the Saudis back into the game. Afghanistan invariably make winning harder for themselves than it needs to be. The difference between Afghanistan and teams like Nepal and the UAE in the field become most apparent at times like these – Roy Dias, the most successful coach in ACC competition once said, “when you have the knife in someone, that is the time to turn the handle” – Afghanistan let their grip slide.

Abid Naseem goes over the top

Naseem was on 22 off 63 deliveries, well set, when the sixth Saudi wicket fell and the field he had – with four on the boundary – was repeated for the new batsman Hussain Anwar. No pressure was put on the new man. It was as if the Afghans thought of victory as a foregone conclusion. It is at the start and end of matches the Afghans are the most alert, in between, they let the game run its course rather than run the game on the course they would like. Tactical naiveté plays a part in handicapping Afghanistan. It can only cost them as the opposition gets tougher in the remainder of the competition and in the ICC World Cricket League.

Mohammad Nabi bowls Mohammad Amjad

Naseem finished on 67 (102 balls, 6 fours, 1 six), dropped twice in the deep after he’d passed 50. On a good batting track 172 wasn’t going to be enough but with Karim Sadiq and then Shafiqullah Shafaq self-destructing to catches in the deep, at one stage it looked as if Saudi Arabia just might get something out of the match. When Nowroz Mangal after a typically classy 55 (60 balls, 7 fours, 1 six) toe-ended a pull to backward square-leg there was just a chance that Saudi Arabia’s spinners could turn the match their way. Had Noor Ali Noori been held by the wicket-keeper off a thin edge from the off-spinner Hussain Anwar when he was 12, the game would have become very interesting.

Noori gave one more chance at 66, to long-on, but in between he'd played very soundly, with grace and power, to take his side home.

Group A

Afghanistan v Saudi Arabia at Kinrara Oval
AFGHANISTAN WON BY 6 WICKETS
Saudi Arabia won the toss and chose to bat
Saudi Arabia: 172 off 48.2 overs (A. Naseem 67; M. Nabi 5-30, H. Gul 3-17)
Afghanistan: 175 for 4 off 25.3 overs (N. Mangal 55, N. Noori 70*)
Man of the Match: Mohammed Nabi (Afghanistan)

Scorecard

Photos courtesy Aric Tan

Filed July 29 2008