Afghanistan’s lethal triumvirate of spinners contrived to hand their team victory over Bangladesh by 45 runs in the first of three T20 International series in
their newly adopted second ‘home ground’ in India, the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium here on Sunday.
Rashid Khan was inevitably the focus of attention and the Player of the Match for his 3/13 as Afghanistan comfortably defended 167. But Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi were the perfect foils, as the trio combined for 6/54 from 11 overs as Bangladesh spluttered to 122 all out.
It was a superb bowling performance all round, with Shapoor Zadran also claiming three good wickets, including the dangerman Tamim Iqbal leg-before in the first over, and two more at the death. With Karim Janat slipping in either side of those strikes to perform a tidy holding role in the middle overs, Afghanistan look to have a varied and potent bowling attack for these conditions.
With the bat, the effervescent strokeplay of Mohammad Shahzad provided the platform for the others to play around him. His 40 from 37 balls was the highest score of the match and he was ably supported at the top by Usman Ghani (26) and Asghar Stanikzai (24),
before the middle order took over, with Samiullah Shenwari playing the innings of the match, striking an 18-ball 36 to see Afghanistan to a very competitive total on a sluggish pitch.
Bangladsh’s response never recovered from the setback of losing Tamim so early, and despite useful hands from Mahmudullah (29) and Mushifqur Rahim (20), they were unable to engineer those middle overs against the turning ball.
It was Rashid himself, at the halfway point of the Tigers’ innings, who iced the win. First he removed Mushfiqur, the keeper going for an ill-advised reverse sweep, and then to the very next delivery Sabbir Rahman was beaten by a beautiful googly. Thereafter, the result was a formality.
Rashid was typically modest at the end of the innings. “It was about keeping everything simple, what I’ve done in the last two-three months. I keep it simple. Just bowl a little back of a length, not too full for the batsman to hit.”
“In the end I just try to enjoy myself. It was a good surface, the ball was gripping, little bit of dew was there. We have just played IPL. That’s the biggest stage. If you perform well there, it gives you the confidence.” The two teams meet again at the same venue on June 5.