For someone born in a refugee camp, Mohammad Nabi has indeed come a long way. From taking up cricket at the age of 10 at one such camp in Peshawar to making his first-class debut for the Marylebone Cricket Club; from guiding his team through the unglamorous second tier of international cricket to helping them qualify for next year's World Cup, he has done a helluva lot already. At the Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium in Fatullah, Nabi achieved another first: he led Afghanistan to their maiden ODI triumph against a Test-playing nation. Not too long ago, Afghanistan could only dare to dream about beating the big boys. Now, they've done it. A brilliant performance helped them upset the hosts by 32 runs in the Asia Cup on Saturday.
The most striking aspect of the Afghanistan team was its celebration: restrained, polished, not even slightly vociferous. For a bunch of players who have fought bullets and bombs, fear and hopelessness, a mere triumph over a cricket team may not be a big deal. Or maybe it is.
First, Afghanistan rode on a brilliant unbeaten career best 90 by Asghar Stanikzai and a punishing 69-ball 81 by Samiullah Shinwari to post a challenging 254/6. Mind you, they fought back from a hopeless position — 90/5 — to post a defendable total. Their bowlers then complemented the batters' efforts by bowling out their rivals for 222 in 47.5 overs. Afghanistan had beaten the likes of Scotland and Kenya, but lost twice to Pakistan and once to Australia. Saturday's victory could well be the first of many in the top tier.
It was a great shock for the hosts, who were the finalists runners-up in the last Asia Cup in 2012. Yes, they were without key all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan (suspended) and injured spearhead Mashrafe Mortaza. Even Tamim Iqbal was absent, but even then, losing to a team that entered the tournament at the 11th hour is not pardonable.
Bangladesh, who lost their opening match to India, never looked settled in their run-chase as they lost their openers by the second over with only a single run on the board. It was a 68-run stand between Mominul Haque (50) and skipper Mushfiqur Rahim (23) that lifted Bangladesh before Afghan captain Mohammad Nabi claimed his counterpart's wicket. Nabi finished with 3/44 while pacemen Hamid Hassan and Shapoor Zadran took two wickets apiece. Mominul hit six boundaries in a sedate 72-ball innings but once he was bowled by Shinwari (1/23), all hopes of a home team win evaporated. Nasir Hossain and Ziaur Rahman chipped in with 41 apiece but could only delay the inevitable.
Earlier, Afghanistan, put into bat, owed their total to a record sixth wicket stand of 164 runs between Stanikzai and Shinwari who lifted their team from a precarious 90/5. The Stanikzai-Shinwari stand is the third highest partnership for Afghanistan in all one-day internationals and the highest for the sixth wicket. Stanikzai hit six boundaries and three towering sixes in his highest one-day score while Shinwari smashed 10 fours and a six.
They ran riot in the final 10 overs as Afghanistan added 107 for the loss of Shinwari who was run out off the penultimate delivery. Afghanistan had lost opener Mohammad Shahzad (two) in the third over of the innings before Karim Sadiq (12) and Najibullah Zadran (21) took the total to 40.
Nawroz Mangal (24) and skipper Mohammad Nabi (seven) too failed to benefit from good starts as Afghanistan were left struggling at 90/5 in the 27th over. It was left to Stanikzai and Shinwari to lift the innings.
—With agency inputs