Afghan hoodoo strikes yet again
SCOTLAND’S bid to surge out of the traps in the T20 World Cup was dashed in Nagpur as their Afghan hoodoo struck yet again.
The middle order batsmen became bogged down when it mattered after the openers had sparkled under the lights with a partnership of 84 to provide what should have been the perfect launchpad in their pursuit of 171.
The Scots ended up limping in frustrating fashion to a frustrating and hugely disappointing 156 for five.
And in the wake of their sixth short-game defeat on the trot to Afghanistan, the pressure will be on Preston Mommsen’s troops when they square up to Zimbabwe at the same venue tomorrow.
Following a nervy start to their reply, Kyle Coetzer and George Munsey established momentum by plundering 13 in the third over off Amir Hamza, including a big six by the former.
Munsey then thumped three fours from Dawlat Zadran’s next over to make it 35 off four.
The Scots raised the tempo even further to bring up the half-century stand in the fifth over - well ahead of the required rate.
Afghanistan brought on 17 year old leg spinner Rashid Khan and he played a major part in decisively turning the tide.
With with the field spread, Coezter perished in the ninth over, pouched by Najibullah Zadran at square leg off Samiullah Shenwari for 40 from 27 deliveries.
As so often happens, another wicket fell immediately as Munsey (41 off 29) was trapped in front by Khan to make it 85 for two.
At the midway point of the chase, the Scots needed 77 with Calum MacLeod and Matt Machan at the crease.
But disaster struck when MacLeod was the victim of a needless run out, the third man to depart in the space of just 10 runs and the contest was right back in the melting pot.
Any prospect of MacLeod reaching safety was wrecked as he slipped on the dewy turf.
Even worse was to come with the tally on 108 when Richie Berrington danced down the track and was comfortably stumped to give rookie Khan more success.
With five overs remaining Scotland needed 51, however there was to be no morale-boosting revival with skipper Mommsen and Machan (36) struggling to find the boundary in the face of tidy but far-from-menacing bowling.
Deflated skipper Mommsen admitted his men only had themselves to blame for their fadeout in Nagpur.
He declared: “That was definitely one that got away.
“We had made a brilliant start to our innings, but instead of keeping the foot on the accelerator, we lost a flurry of wickets at a crucial stage.
“Even with these setbacks, we should have gone on to win, so the result was a big disappointment.”
Earlier, old adversary Mo Shahzad made his intentions clear by cracking the first ball of the match from Mark Watt through extra cover for a boundary after the Afghans had won the toss and elected to bat.
The punishment intensified in the next over when Josh Davey was hoisted over the mid-wicket rope by Noor Ali who hit the following delivery for four.
But the breakthrough came when Ali Evans joined the attack to remove Ali, caught by Davey at third-man for 17.
Scotland were able to apply the brakes to restrict their rivals to 41 for one from the power-play overs but Shahzad reclaimed the initiative with a blistering counter-attack.
The hard-hitting opener smashed three maximums in the space of a handful of deliveries, one off Berrington and two from the part-time spin of Machan.
Shahzad eventually holed-out to MacLeod at long-on to give Watt a wicket but not before racing to 61 from just 39 balls.
His effort carried the Afghans to 107 for two from thirteen overs, providing the perfect platform for a final onslaught.
But Shahzad’s departure also gave Scotland renewed hope and a few tight overs were rewarded with two run-outs and a wicket for Davey.
Shafiqullah upped the tempo again with 14 from just five deliveries while skipper Asghar Stanikzai stroked his team’s second half-century to finish unbeaten on 55 in a total of 170 for five – at least 20 more than par.
Evans was Scotland’s best bowler with 1-24 while Safyaan Sharif was unlucky to get no reward from his four testing overs.