The last two days of the World Cup belonged to the courageous display by Associate nations – Ireland, who shocked West Indies, and Scotland, who made hosts New Zealand toil in chase of a low total.
Asian Associate giants Afghanistan took on Bangladesh in their World Cup debut on Wednesday in Canberra with expectations of another upset but it fizzled out. Afghanistan did show their bowling skills restricting Bangladesh to 267 all out in 50 overs but their batting succumbed, bundled out for just 162 in 42.5 overs.
Afghanistan had a chance to signal their arrival in cricket’s elite competition when they got a team whom they had stunned by 32 runs in the 2014 Asia Cup but tasted the heaviest defeat so far for the Associates in World Cup losing the match by 105 runs.
In seaming conditions, the Afghans were shell shocked in their reply when skipper Mashrafe Mortaza picked up two wickets taking full advantage of the pitch. Ruble Hussain in between picked up another wicket as the Afghans were reeling at 3-3 in 3 overs.
In came Samiullah Shenwari, the protagonist in Afghanistan’s historic day of their cricket when his 164-run stand with Asghar Stanikzai scripted the victory against Bangladesh. Shenwari shared 62 runs for the fourth wicket with his former skipper Nawroz Mangal (27) but their quick dismissals left Afghanistan tottering at 78-5.
It was all left on skipper Mohammad Nabi to anchor their sail who resisted combining for a 58-run partnership with Najibullah Zadran (17) before both were back into their den in two consecutive balls. Nabi top scored with 44 off 43 with five fours and Shenwari made 42 off 75 hitting two boundaries.
Mortaza returned with current World Cup’s ninth best figures of 3-20 from 9 overs and Shakib Al Hassan took 2-43 from 8.5 overs.
Earlier, Bangladesh top four batsmen managed to score in double figures but they were already reduced to 119-4. The challenge for the Afghans now was to get rid of Bangladesh’s two big players – Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib – which did happen but not before the duo took the Tigers to a comfortable position.
Shakib and Rahim shared 104-run stand for the fifth wicket, enough to break Afghan hearts. Rahim made 71 off 56 and Shakib chipped in a quick 63 off 51. Both batsmen hit six boundaries and a six. Hamid Hassan, Shapoor Zadran, Aftab Alam and Mirwais Ashraf picked up two wickets each for Afghanistan.