A fabulous half-century from Mohammad Shahzad, who smashed a 53-ball 68, led Afghanistan to a seven-wicket over Hong Kong at the Zohur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chittagong yesterday.
Batting first, late hits helped Hong Kong post 153. In reply, the Afghans, after a slow start, reached their target with two overs remaining.
Afghanistan were at a precarious 49 for 1 at the end of nine overs and required 105 off the last eleven. It was then that Shahzad decided to unleash a wide array of shots. He began by smacking Nizakath Khan for two sixes in the 10th over and reached his 50 off 41 balls in the 12th over. The highlight of his innings was a Dhoni-esque helicopter drive in the 13th over that went for a six over wide long-on. He hit six fours and three sixes in his 53-ball knock before eventually holing out to Irfan Ahmed, who put in a full length dive to take a stunning catch, at extra cover.
By then the Afghans were poised at a 116 for 3 and already had the game in the bag. Shafiqullah, who partnered Shahzad for most part of the innings, hammered three sixes towards the end to post 51 off 24 balls and take their side home.
Earlier, two quick top-order partnerships helped Hong Kong cross the 150-run mark after electing to bat. After Shapoor Zadran bowled opener Irfan Ahmed on the very first delivery, captain Jamie Atkinson and Waqas Barkat scored 42 runs in 4.3 overs to revive their side. Atkinson, who ended up scoring 31 off 20 balls, in particular went on an all out attack, smacking five fours and a six. His shot of the game came in the third over when he stood his crease and used his wrists to powerfully pull Gulbadin Naib over midwicket.
His fall in the fifth over brought Mark Chapman to the crease and together with Barkat, the pair scored 60 runs in the next 8.5 overs and took the team's score across 100. While Chapman did not make the best of starts -- he was hit on the helmet with a steaming Dawlat Zadran bouncer -- he stayed on to score a 43-ball 38. Barkat was removed by Mohammad Nabi for a run-a-ball 32 in the 14th over while Chapman's nemesis Dawlat got him bowled in the 17th. Following their departures, Hong Kong's tail whacked a few lusty blows towards the end of the innings to help them post the modest total.
The wicket, which saw a drastic change from the typical low Chittagonian pitches, had grass on it and also offered plenty of bounce. Afghan pacer Shapoor, who finished with figures of 2 for 27 was the peak of the bowlers.