As the umpire raised his finger in response to Shakti Gauchan's appeal for an lbw against Mohammad Nabi, the bowler took off for a celebratory sprint. Jumping and running almost at the same time, he reached all the way to the midwicket fielder and celebrated along with the sparse Nepali crowd present at that end of the Zohur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium yesterday.
It did not matter that there were four more wickets left, it did not matter that the ball was seemingly sliding down leg; all that mattered was that Nepal were on their way to their first win over Afghanistan, in any format of the game since 2004; and what a platform to have achieved it.
After a middle-order bailout, Nepal put up a fighting 141 on the board. In reply, Afghanistan, who had entered the tournament targeting a berth in the Super 10s, went down against a spirited Nepali fielding side by 10 runs.
A win for Nepal was seemingly on the cards right from the start with pacers Sompal Kami and Jitendra Mukhiya removing openers Mohammad Shahzad and Karim Sadiq within the first four overs. Slow left-armer Gauchan came in and took two more wickets to make it 5 for 50 in nine overs. Shafiqullah, who attempted counter-attack, was smartly caught at short third man in the 15th over and Nepal breathed a sigh of relief.
A few late hits from Asghar Stanikzai helped Afghanistan reach 118 for 7 in the 19th over, with Afghanistan requiring 24 off the last over. Despite the clear advantage that the Himalayan nation had, the nerves of a late turnaround was always present, a feature arising from their lack of wins in this circuit.
Two misfields from Gyanendra Malla helped Stanikzai hit two boundaries through wide long-on. He hit another on the fourth ball and brought the equation down to ten from two. However, Malla made amends by catching Stanikzai off the penultimate ball of the over, and Nepal, despite having stretched it till the end, reached a well-deserved victory in their final game.
Nepal's middle-order bailed them out from a potential collapse for the third consecutive time in the tournament as a 66-run stand between Subash Khakurel and Sharad Vesawkar for the fourth wicket revived them from a nervy 55 for 3 and helped them post 141.
The pair scored 50 runs in between the 14th and 18th overs and helped boost their run-rate.
With two overs remaining, Afghanistan brought Shapoor Zadran back and the move worked almost immediately as he removed both the batsmen in a space of three balls. While Khakurel was caught at mid-wicket by a good running catch from Stanikzai, Vesawkar was outdone by a fierce bouncer. A good last over from Nabi, which gave away just six runs, ensured Nepal were restricted to just 141 for 5.