Afghanistan might be tournament favourites and even though they beat Malaysia by 1 run in the latest Group B match of the ACC Trophy Elite, they’ve shown they can be pushed hard by teams other than the UAE. Malaysia came in to the match fresher, Afghanistan with campaign wounds from two matches already, a gruelling loss to the UAE yesterday behind them, Malaysia playing their first match of the tournament. Afghanistan had to win in order to stay in the competition. They did, just, against a very strong Malaysian performance.

There was good bowling by the Malaysian seamers early on after Afghanistan chose to bat on winning the toss, Hassan Ghulam and Suresh Navaratnam, getting the ball to climb off a length. Hassan was just a little erratic however, and had every error punished.

Afghanistan were 53 for 0 after 10 overs. Karim holed out to mid-off, and Noor Ali was caught close in when both looked well set. After 20 overs Afghanistan were 98 for 2, no real threat from the bowlers on the good batting surface but the batsmen certainly weren’t being gifted runs.

Shukri Rahim bowled the first maiden in the 23rd over, and Nik Arifin then took the big wicket of Nowroz Mangal in the next, caught at cover off a flat-batted drive. After 25 overs Afghanistan were 123 for 3, Malaysia in with a chance of putting on some real pressure and keeping the opposition below 250 by forcing the Afghans into hitting over the top, earlier than they would like.

After 30 overs Afghanistan were 138 for 3 and with Mohammad Shahzad falling soon after, Raees Ahmadzai came in with a bit to do. Asghar Stanikzai had batted soundly until he was brilliantly run out by Suhan Kumar at mid-off, running in and hitting the stumps direct. Shinwari was bowled trying to force across the line

Sami Shinwari falls to Nik Arifin

Between overs 25 and 40, Afghanistan scored only 42 for the loss of three wickets as Malaysia’s spinners kept the ball right up to the bat. Malaysia kept chipping away. Raees Ahmadzai’s boundary in the 42nd over was the first since the 31st over, he followed it with a six over long-on two balls later.

Raees Ahmadzai for Afghanistan

With 5 overs to go Afghanistan were 191 for 8, four overs in their Powerplay to take advantage of - if Malaysia would allow Ahmadzai on strike. The 47th over by Damith Warusavithana was a maiden to tailender Hamid Hassan. At the other end though Raees Ahmadzai started hitting, and passed his 50 after 53 balls. Afghanistan made 37 off the Powerplay, Raees Ahmadzai going on to 64 off 59 deliveries with five 4s and three 6s.

Malaysia bowled and fielded very well 90% of the time, but it was the other 10% that allowed Afghanistan to escape to 236.

Malaysia lost Rakesh Madhavan early,a big blow. Afghanistan realised that spin would be the key and took off the fast bowlers from the 10th over. After a 52-run partnership with opener Damith Warusavithana, Ahmed Faiz swept a full-toss to square leg to bring captain Suhan Kumar to the wicket. With Damith, he set about the Afghans.

Hamid Hassan gets his first, Damith Warusavithana for 35

Malaysia's captain Suhan Kumar, positivity personified

After 20 overs Malaysia were 78 for 2, 159 wanted at 5.3 an over. The match between UAE and Afghanistan yesterday had provided a lesson in how to chase down a total, even with the required run-rate climbing to a run-a-ball deep into the innings. Malaysia needed someone to stay there and bat all the way through. It wasn’t going to be Damith, he was bowled in Hamid Hassan’s first over after a good 35. Malaysia’s 100 came up in the 24th over. And at the half-way stage Malaysia needed another 129, Suhan Kumar 30* of 37 balls. With 20 overs to go, 98 were wanted, Suhan 42*, Anwar Arudin 22* - undefeated partnership of 42 for the fourth wicket. There were good strokes, there was even better running between the wickets. Suhan Kumar is sprinter-fast.

Shahpour Zadran, Afghanistan's tall left-arm fast-bowler was brought on to break the partnership, in tandem with Hamid Hassan at the other end. The game was following the same pattern as yesterday’s tussle between Afghanistan and UAE. The 50-partnership between Suhan and Anwar came up off 60 balls. Hamid tried his yorkers, his bouncers, his short of a length climbers, even his slower delivery. The batsmen were up to all of them.

Suhan Kumar’s 50 took 62 balls, (four 4s). With 15 overs to go, Malaysia needed 75, seven wickets in hand. The game looked theirs for the taking. Suhan Kumar hit the first ball of Sami Shenwari’s second spell for 6, way over long-off. Karim’s first ball of his second spell, though, the 39th of the innings had Suhan lbw for 61. It had been a top knock. 60 now wanted off 71 and the hobbling Suresh Navaratnam at the crease with a runner.

Suresh was dropped by Dawlat in his follow-through when on 7. With 10 overs to go 49 were wanted. Malaysia favourites. 30 were wanted off eight, six wickets in hand. Hamid Hassan came back for one last roar. Suresh hit a 4 through midwicket and then sliced a slower ball high in the sky only to be dropped at backward point.

Hamid’s next over though, the slower ball worked, Anwar edging behind and Shahzad taking a good catch low down to his left. The crowd of 300 was re-ignited with support for their beloved Afghanistan. Next ball, Shafiq Sharif was plumb to a yorker. The next ball to Shukri, for Hamid’s second hat-trick of the tournament potentially, just missed.

Shukri Rahim falls to Hamid Hassan

Suresh fell to the first ball after Hamid’s double-wicket maiden, Shahpour finding the edge and Shahzad taking low down. It had been a top effort by a gutsy cricketer, 33 off 28 and one leg.

Hamid’s next over: first ball, Shukri was yorked. Malaysia 223 for 8, 23 balls to go. 14 wanted. The fifth ball, Nik Azril lbw. 12 wanted, 19 balls to go, 1 wicket in hand.

Young Shahrulnizam Yusof had bowled very well earlier in the day for Malaysia and his straight, lofted drive for 4, left Malaysia needing just six with two overs to go, one of them from Hamid. Safely negotiated.

Five wickets had fallen for 14 runs.

Last over, 4 to win. Nowroz Mangal bowled it. Off-spin. The first ball went for a single to square leg. Dot ball next. Scrambled single. Three balls left, 2 to win. Dot ball. Then – Shahrulnizam flashed at one and was caught behind. Afghanistan won by 1 run.

It wasn’t Malaysia’s victory but they played in a way to impress their opponents and everyone else in the competition with their revamped side. Afghanistan live to fight another day too.

Group B: Afghanistan v Malaysia at KOC Hubara
Afghanistan won the toss and chose to bat
Afghanistan: 236 for 9 off 50 overs (K. Sadiq 46, A.Stanikzai 41, R.Ahmadzai 64*)
Malaysia: 235 all out off 49.5 (D.Warnasavithana 35, S.Kumar 61, A.Arudin 43, S.Navaratnam 33; H.Hassan 5-44)
Man of the Match: Hamid Hassan

Pictures by Salman Hussain

Tournament page

Filed April 3rd, 2010