SYDNEY (AFP) – Afghanistan’s remarkable rise continued with a maiden World Cup win as they beat Scotland by one wicket on Thursday, while Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara celebrated his 400th one-dayer with a hundred in a 92-run victory over Bangladesh.
It’s a long way, in more than terms of distance, from the ravages of war-torn Afghanistan to Dunedin’s University Oval, but the sedate surroundings ultimately proved a happy hunting ground for the Afghans.
However, Afghanistan, appearing in their first World Cup, looked anything but likely winners as they slumped to 97 for seven in pursuit of a modest victory target of 211.
But Samiullah Shenwari had other ideas as the 28-year-old’s breathtaking 96 with seven fours and five sixes took Afghanistan to the brink of a sensational victory.
When he holed out off spinner Majid Haq, Afghanistan still needed 19 more runs off as many balls with just one wicket standing.
But the last-wicket duo of Hamid Hassan (15 not out) and Shapoor Zadran (12 not out) held their nerve, with Shapoor looking anything but a No 11 as he struck the winning boundary off Iain Wardlaw three balls into the last over.
This result, following Ireland’s exciting win over the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday, meant the four non-Test nations taking part had produced the two most exciting finishes of this World Cup — an ideal riposte to the International Cricket Council’s proposal to reduce the number of teams involved in the 2019 edition in England from 14 to 10.
“It was difficult because we lost early wickets but I did my job,” said man-of-the-match Shenwari.
After he was out, a despairing Shenwari could be seen sitting with his head in his hands.
“It was a very poor shot,” he admitted. “I was trying to get another six but it was a very good win for us.”
Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi thought his side had thrown away their chance with the bat after restricting Scotland to 210 all out in an innings where left-arm paceman Shapoor took an impressive four for 38 in his maximum permitted 10 overs.
“The pressure was extreme again but Shenwari batted brilliantly,” said Nabi. “It’s good to put two points on the board. This is our first win in the World Cup and everyone (in Afghanistan) will enjoy this.”
For Scotland, now appearing in their third World Cup, the wait for a win goes on after they looked certain to break their duck in Dunedin — the Gaelic name for Edinburgh.
“It’s never easy losing a game but this is a particularly difficult one for us to swallow,” said Scotland captain Preston Mommsen, whose side have now lost all three of their matches following defeats by New Zealand and England.
At the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Tillakaratne Dilshan smashed an unbeaten 161 off 146 balls and Sangakkara marked his 400th one-dayer with a century as Sri Lanka whipped butter-fingered Bangladesh by 92 runs, also in Pool A.
Sri Lanka, who were dismissed for 233 by New Zealand and then struggled to chase down Afghanistan’s 232, finally came good with the bat after electing to take first strike.
Dilshan and Sangakkara, who hit 105 not out in his landmark match, lifted the Islanders to a mammoth 332 for one that proved too hot to chase for Bangladesh, who folded up for 240 with three overs to spare.
Sri Lanka were helped along by a shoddy fielding display by Bangladesh, whose maiden appearance at the iconic MCG was marred by five missed chances.
Dilshan put on 122 for the first wicket with Lahiru Thirimanne (52) and an undefeated 210 for the second with Sangakkara, who added two catches and a stumping to his 22nd one-day century.
Bangladesh lost flamboyant opener Tamim Iqbal off the second ball, bowled by Lasith Malinga, slipped to 41 for three by the seventh over and they never recovered.
Sabbir Rahman top-scored with 53 and Shakib Al Hassan made 46 while Malinga finished with three wickets.
Pool A is led by New Zealand with six points while Sri Lanka have four points, one ahead of Australia and Bangladesh. Afghanistan are currently fifth, just outside the quarter-final qualifying places.