Stanikzai, spinners help Afghanistan level series with thrilling win

BANGLADESH VS AFGHANISTAN

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Dawlat Zadran hit the winning runs in a tense finish, Bangladesh v Afghanistan, 2nd ODI, Mirpur, September 28, 2016

Dawlat Zadran hit the winning runs in a tense finish, Bangladesh v Afghanistan, 2nd ODI, Mirpur, September 28, 2016

In the lead-up to the series between Bangladesh and Afghanistan, there was little discussion, nevermind debate, about the outcome of the series. But, Afghanistan proved how far they have come in the sport after beating the hosts by two wickets in a low-scoring thriller.

Losing to the home side by just seven runs, Afghanistan’s pluck and resolve transcended into the second One-Day International at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Dhaka on Wednesday (September 28), where they fought back hard to level the three-match series.

A clinical hand from debutant Mosaddek Hossain was the saving grace for Bangladesh after being reduced to 141 for 7 from a comfortable 110 for 2. That he trudged Bangladesh along to 208 in 49.2 overs, with a 43-run stand for the last wicket with Rubel Hossain when Bangladesh seemed like they wouldn’t reach even 175, was a reflection of his character and the significance of his knock in a game whereAfghanistan’s spin duo of Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan ran riot on the hosts’ lower-middle order.

They, however, were unable to shake Hoss

ain, who ended up as the team’s highest scorer with an unbeaten run-a-ball 45. He also picked up two wickets, but his all-round heroics eventually went in vain.

Wickets in clumps hurt Afghanistan at the top, but a match-altering 107-run stand between captain Asghar Stanikzai and Nabi for the fifth wicket took them to a stunning victory with two balls to spare – only their second over Bangladesh, after the 2014 Asia Cup.

With Afghanistan needing 209 to win, Shakib-al-Hasan dealt the visitors a double blow in the fourth over sending back Nawroz Mangal and Rahmat Shah in the space of three balls. Mohammad Shahzad, the opener, held his end strongly to steady the innings with Hashmatullah Shahidi.

However, Shakib returned to trap Shahidi leg before for 14, ending the 45-run stand, with a visibly unhappy Shahzad. He himself departed in the 16th over for a run-a-ball 35, leaving Afghanistan at 63 for 4 and in dire need of a steady partnership to put them back in the hunt. And that’s just what was provided by Stanikzai and Nabi.

After a century stand, the duo departed in successive overs with the match placed precariously. While Stanikzai was dismissed for a patient 95-ball 57, Nabi fell one short of a half-century. Najibullah Zadran took Afghanistan close to the target with a handy 22, after which Dawlat Zadran belted a four off his first ball to hit the winning runs.

On being asked to bat, Bangladesh’s openers started off strongly with a 45-run stand, but Mirwais Ashraf brought Afghanistan back by dismissing both in successive overs. Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur Rahim resurrected the innings but once the former fell for 25, it was a downward spiral for the hosts who lost 7 for 65, being reduced to 165 for 9.

Nabi strangulated the Bangladesh batsmen will his wily offspin, conceding a miserly 16 runs in ten overs for the return of two wickets. Rashid, alongside him, picked up 3 for 35 in his quota, while Mosaddek marched on unperturbed at the other end.

Bangladesh’s first ODI was played back in March, 1986 against Pakistan, and since then, they have 314 in their account. A series loss here would be rather humbling for the hosts, who have been challenged by the 69-ODI strong Afghanistan, after having won limited-overs series versus India, Pakistan and South Africa at home last year.

The last ODI of the series, the decider, will be played on Saturday (October 1) at the same venue.

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