Afghanistan proved yesterday that their abilities in the shortest format of the game far outstripped Bangladesh’s as they rode on Mohammad Nabi’s T20 batting masterclass and mesmerising spin bowling from Mujeeb ur Rahman to outclass the hosts by 25 runs in a T20I tri-series match at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium.
Both sides lost four wickets in the Powerplay overs. However, while Bangladesh’s bowlers let the game slip as Nabi hit an unbeaten 54-ball 84 to post 164 for six, Afghanistan’s attack finished the job in clinical fashion despite a 58-run fifth-wicket stand between Mahmudullah Riyad and Sabbir Rahman as the Tigers were shot out for 139 in 19.5 overs.
It was Afghanistan’s 12th straight win in the format, equalling Australia’s streak as the longest unbeaten run in the format. Afghanistan have in fact won all their 12 games, while Australia had a no-result and a tie in their streak.
Bangladesh were left needing 68 runs off the last five overs with the seventh-wicket pair of Mosaddek Hossain and Afif Hossain at the crease, but the pair could not reprise their heroics in the opener against Zimbabwe. Afif was dismissed by Gulbadin Naib before Afghanistan skipper Rashid Khan put the issue beyond doubt by picking up Mohammad Saifuddin and Mosaddek Hossain in the 19th over.
Mujeeb had started in the very first over by having opener Liton Das caught off a leading edge with the second ball of the innings. The experienced Mushfiqur Rahim then inexplicably tried to scoop the third delivery he faced and was bowled by pacer Fareed Ahmed in the second over.
Skipper Shakib Al Hasan and Soumya Sarkar then became Mujeeb’s victims in the fifth over as the Tigers were reduced to 32 for four. Following that, Mahmudullah Riyad and Sabbir Rahman put on the face-saving stand, but the duo departed in quick succession to leave Bangladesh on 97 for six after 15 overs.
Earlier, after losing the toss, Bangladesh got off to the best of starts when Mohammad Saifuddin produced a peach to get rid of Rahmanullah Gurbaz with the first ball of the innings, which pitched on middle stump and jagged away to hit the top of off stump.
The home bowlers continued to enjoy the Powerplay overs as opener Hazratullah Zazai too departed in the second over, caught off Bangladesh skipper Shakib Al Hasan. Saifuddin was back in the act in the third over, but this time it was a bouncer that had Najeeb Tarakai caught on the fence in the leg side to have Afghanistan reeling on 19 for three.
Asghar Afghan seemed to be doing his best to get out, flaying and missing at numerous deliveries while managing to connect with a few in an ultra-aggressive approach. But Najibullah Zadran’s dismissal off Shakib’s bowling in the sixth over, which cut Afghanistan to 40 for four, and the arrival of Nabi seemed to calm nerves as the experienced duo set about repairing the damage.
Three boundary-less overs followed as Afghanistan reached 51 for four after nine overs. Nabi broke the boundary drought by hitting a wayward delivery from part-time medium-pacer Soumya Sarkar for four down to fine leg. Afghanistan started accelerating from that point, with Nabi hitting a six off Taijul Islam in the 11th over and Asghar coming up with a maximum of his own off Mosaddek Hossain in the next over. Despite the slow start, the 50-run stand came up in 43 balls.
Bangladesh had a chance to break the partnership in the 15th over when Asghar, on 32, played one shot too many and was caught, but replays showed that Taijul had overstepped, allowing the former Afghanistan to hit a further six in the same over, with Nabi adding further salt into Taijul’s wounds with another.
Saifuddin, the pick of the bowlers for the Tigers, finally ended the stand in the 17th over by getting Asghar caught off a slower off-cutter. The pace-bowling all-rounder then picked up his maiden four-wicket haul by bowling Gulbadin Naib for a duck later in the same over.
Nabi, however, was not to be deterred as he lined up Soumya for two sixes and two fours in the next over, which cost 22 runs. The first of those two sixes brought up the powerful right-hander’s fourth T20I fifty off 41 deliveries. Two more sixes off Nabi’s bat followed in the next over from Saifuddin, before Mustafizur Rahman limited the damage by allowing only three runs in the final over after the previous five had yielded 69.
Nabi was unbeaten on a spectacular 54-ball 84, hitting seven sixes and three boundaries in the process. Saifuddin had the best figures of four for 33 from four overs for Bangladesh, while Shakib was the most economical with two for 18 from his four.