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ICC World Cup Qualifiers, Super Sixes, Match 9, Review: Afghanistan join Windies in the flight to WC 2019

Afghanistan beat Ireland by 5 wickets.

Afghanistan team
Afghanistan team celebrates a wicket. (Photo Source: ICC)

A week ago, not many had given the Afghanistani side a sniff in the World Cup Qualifiers. And now, team Afghanistan has confirmed their ticket to England for the World Cup 2019.  Well, things do change drastically. However, one will have to believe that the team definitely got lucky in the tournament. The tournament, thus far, had been one full of heartbreaks.

Scotland were unlucky to miss out on the berth despite having played brilliantly in the tournament, including a win over Afghanistan in the league stages. Similar, Zimbabwe were phenomenal in the tournament but ended up losing to UAE in the crunch game to bow out of the series. And now, the Afghanistani side, that had barely managed to scamper through to the Super Sixes, has beaten Ireland in the virtual knockout game to seal their spot in the coveted tournament.

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Afghanistan locked horns with Ireland in the must win game which had the equation cut out for both the sides – the winner takes it all. They had a modest total of 209 to overall. And their batsmen picked up just at the right time in the tournament. On the day when it mattered, they were the superior side and managed to beat Ireland by 5 wickets.

Earlier in the game, Ireland had won the toss and had opted to bat first. Irish openers, William Porterfield and Paul Stirling, got off to a very good start. They managed to see off the new ball bowlers of Afghanistan with quite some ease. Both proven wicket-takers, Dawlat Zadran and Mujeeb Zadran, failed to get an early breakthrough as the Irish openers posted 53 runs for the first wicket.

It was Mohammad Nabi who gave the first breakthrough to Afghanistan when he dismissed Porterfield on 20 in the 16th over. Andrew Balbirnie, the in-form batsman, failed to score big on the day and perished on 11 to a delivery bowled by Rashid Khan in the 24th over. The run rate dramatically fell down and Ireland did not cross the 100-run mark at the half way stage in the innings.

Meanwhile, Stirling continued with his uncharacteristic knock and reached his fifty. He perished as a result of a mix-up with Niall O’Brien in the 33rd over. Stirling scored 55 off 87 deliveries with three fours and a six. Simi Singh (15) was promoted ahead of Kevin O’Brien but he could not do much on the day. Niall O’Brien (36) and Simi Singh fell in rather quick succession to put a serious brake on the Irish innings.

It was a quick cameo from Kevin O’Brien who scored 41 off 37 deliveries towards the end of the innings to ensure that the Irish score ticked the 200-run mark. They finished with 209/7 in their stipulated 50 overs. For Afghanistan, Rashid Khan was the pick of the bowlers with 3/40 to his name.

And the run chase

In the run chase, Afghanistan had a modest total to overhaul. Their openers, Mohammad Shahzad and Gulbadin Naib, gave a very solid foundation to them in the run chase. The two batsmen added 86 runs for the opening wicket with Shahzad taking a heavy toll on the bowlers. Shahzad finally struck good form in the tournament and came good on the day when it mattered.

He smashed 54 off 50 deliveries with 6 fours and a couple of sixes before being dismissed by Simi Singh. Simi had a brilliant start to his spell. He started off with a maiden and then sent Shahzad packing in his next over. Soon, he also accounted for the dismissal of Rahmat Shah on 12. Meanwhile, Boyd Rankin also struck to send Naib packing on 45 (91) in the 29th over.

Ireland had started to pick things up in the game. Simi struck for the third time by getting the big wicket of Mohammad Nabi (12). However, the ask was a little too much for them. The Afghanistan side, despite having lost four wickets, were ahead in the game and needed only 65 to win after Nabi’s dismissal. Samiullah Shenwari and Asghar Stanikzai built a handy partnership to get them over the line.

They added 36 runs for the fifth wicket before Shenwari was dismissed by Barry McCarthy on 27. Najibullah Zadran was the new man in at the crease for Afghanistan. Zadran (17) and Stanikzai (39) remained unbeaten to complete the formalities as Afghanistan beat Ireland by 5 wickets.

Brief Scores:

Ireland 209/7 in 50 overs (Stirling 55, Kevin 41, Rashid 3/40, Dawlat 2/54)

Afghanistan 213/5 in 49.1 overs (Shahzad 54, Naib 45, Simi Singh 3/30, Rankin 1/41)

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