bangladesh 158 for 4 (Shanto 59*, Mehdi 57, Umarzai 1-9) defeated afghanistan 156 (Gurbaz 47, Mehdi 3-25, Shakib 3-30) by six wickets
After being sent in, Afghanistan made a solid start before Shakib changed the momentum with the wickets of Ibrahim Zadran and Rahmat Shah. Afghanistan could never recover from there and were all out from 83 for 1 to 156 for 1.
The beautiful backdrop makes Dharamshala one of the most picturesque venues in world cricket, but the sand-based outfield is not a pleasant sight to behold. When fielders used to slide, their knees would stick inside and when fast bowlers ran in to bowl, clouds of dust could be seen. Fortunately, both parties escaped without any injuries.
Shakib broke the 47-run partnership when Ibrahim tried to sweep one outside off and ended up top-edging it to deep square-leg. A few overs later, the Bangladesh captain had Rahmat caught in a similar manner – the only difference being that it was a catch near short extra cover.
Rahmat’s wicket put a break on the scoring rate: Afghanistan could score only five runs in 16 to 19 overs. Captain Hashmatullah Shahidi, in particular, struggled to rotate the strike against Mehdi. Facing 22 balls from the offspinner, Shahidi scored only three runs.
He tried to break the shackles by pulling Mahmudullah for four and then charged down the track to hit Mustafizur Rahman through cover. But when he tried to take on Mehdi, he was thrown a mile into the air and caught at mid-on.
Shakib then returned to take his third wicket as Najibullah Zadran played on the wrong line and was bowled. In the next over, Mohammad Nabi cut the ball from Taskin Ahmed onto his stumps, reducing Afghanistan’s score to 126 for 6.
Azmatullah Umarzai and Rashid Khan took the team past 150, before Rashid also fell victim to the slow pace of the surface and played on Mehdi. After this the innings did not last long.
Defending 156, Afghanistan did not get off to a good start with the ball, with both Fazalhaq Farooqui and Mujeeb Ur Rehman struggling with their lines. Despite this, Bangladesh’s score was 27 runs for 2 wickets. Tanjeed Hasan was run out after a mistake with Liton Das. Two overs later, Liton got an inside edge on the stumps against Faruqi.
Suddenly Afghanistan got a chance to get back into the game. They could not do this because of their own mistakes. When the total score was 38, Najibullah dropped Mehdi at backward point off the bowling of Farooqui. Mehdi got another lease of life soon after when Mujeeb dropped him at deep third off the bowling of Naveen-ul-Haq. At the time of relief they were 16 and 23 years old respectively.
Mehdi and Shanto played massive percentage cricket after that, and were happy to take one and two. Nevertheless, it took only 58 balls for Mehdi to complete his half-century. By the time Afghanistan broke the 97-run partnership with the wicket of Mehdi, Bangladesh were only 33 runs away from the target – enough for Shanto to complete his half-century.
Hemant Brar is sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo