Afghanistan became the first team to qualify for the Super Four stage of the Asia Cup 2022 with a convincing seven wicket win over Bangladesh in a Group B match at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, here on Tuesday.
The victory for Afghanistan was set up by spinners Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Rashid Khan, while Najibullah Zadran's six-hitting spree and his unbroken partnership of 69 off 5.3 overs with Ibrahim Zadran took Afghanistan home with nine balls to spare.
After winning the toss and opting to bat first, Bangladesh batters couldn't get going for most part of the innings on a dusty pitch, which had a fair amount of grip and turns.
The Afghanistan spin twins Mujeeb Ur Rahman (3/16) and Rashid Khan (3/22) bowled tight length and lines and spun their webs in the powerplay and in the middle-overs respectively.
When Mahmudullah (25 off 27) got out in the 15.4 overs, Bangladesh were 89-6 and it looked like they'd even fold for under 100. However, Mosaddek Hossain's 31-ball 48, and Mehidy Hasan's 12-ball 14 helped Bangladesh in some form of recovery and led them to a respectable total of 127/7 in 20 overs.
Chasing a respectable target, Afghanistan got off to a poor start as Shakib Al Hasan, playing his 100th T20I, got rid of operer Rahmanullah Gurbaz to give Bangladesh some hope. Bangladesh capitalised on the wicket as the runs were stifled.
The spinners were doing all the damage by not giving away freebies to Hazratullah Zazai and Ibrahim Zadran was content taking the chase deep. By removing Zazai and Mohammad Nabi in succession, Bangladesh appeared to have taken control of the game. Afghanistan were on the verge of going down as needed 66 from the final 7 after fetching only 62 from the first 13.
Thereafter, a couple of boundaries from Ibrahim Zadran ((42 not out off 41) brought the equation down to 52 from the final five overs which is when Najibullah Zadran (43 not out off 17) took over and stunned the bowling side.
For the first 35 overs of the contest, only one six was hit. But Najibullah added six more hits over the fence in the next four overs with his clean hitting. Mustafizur was hit for a couple of sixes and Saifuddin suffered the same fate in the following over as the pacers undid the spinners' good work.
The 22-run 18th over very much ended the contest as Afghanistan needed only 4 more from the final two overs with Najibullah clearing the ropes one more time to lead Afghanistan to a convincing win in 18.3 overs, with seven wickets in hand.
Brief scores: Bangladesh 127/7 in 20 overs (Mosaddek Hossain 48 not out, Mahmudullah 25; Mujeeb Ur Rahman 3/16, Rashid Khan 3/22) lost to Afghanistan 131-3 in 18.3 overs (Najibullah Zadran 43 not out, Ibrahim Zadran 42 not out, Mosaddek Hossain 1/12) by 7 wickets.