KABUL: In the third and most important qualifying play-off match of the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier in Dublin on Thursday, Afghanistan defeated Papua New Guinea by six wickets.
Having lost the first play-off match against Hong Kong and unceremoniously knocked out of the tournament, it was a must-win game for Afghanistan to qualify for the next year’s ICC World Twenty20 in India.
Winning the toss and electing to bat first, Papua New Guinea scored 127 for the loss of six wickets in their stipulated 20 overs.
Papua New Guinea got off to a worst possible start after losing five quick wickets. Afghanistan’s pace attack led by Dawlat Zadran and Shapoor Zadran tested the skill and temperament of inexperienced Papua New Guinea batsmen.
The late flurry helped Papua New Guinea post a modest total of 127 runs on the board. Afghan bowlers, after doing all the hard work till 16th overs, leaked runs in the final four overs.
CJA Amini top-scored for Papua New Guinea with 37 runs off 37 balls. N Vanua scored 22 off 12 balls.
For Afghanistan, Shapoor Zadran claimed two wickets while Mohammad Nabi, Dawlat Zadran, Mirwais Ashraf and Hamid Hassan claimed one wicket each.
Chasing the modest and achievable target of 128 runs to win the all-important match, Afghanistan suffered a major blow on the first ball of their innings.
Explosive wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Shahzad fiddled outside the off stump, offeringa simple catch to the wicketkeeper. He departed without opening his account.
The second-wicket pair of Nawroz Mangal and Asghar Stanikzai batted sensibly and took the score to 57 runs in 9.6 overs before skipper Stanikzai was stumped.
Papua New Guinea bowlers did not allow Afghan batsmen to go on the rampage. The scoring rate was low but the total was well within the reach with many big hitters to come.
Samiullah Shenwari perished soon, after scoring 5 off 9 balls. Mangal, the experienced campaigner, stood firm at the other end, scoring runs briskly.
He reached his half century in 43 balls with the help of three mighty sixes and four boundaries.
Mohammad Nabi also failed to see through his side and was dismissed for 11 off 9 balls. Afghanistan still required 20 off the final three overs.
Najibullah Zadran, famous for his lusty blows, smashed Nou for a flat six on a no ball to ease the nerves.
With six runs required off 12 balls, Zadran smashed another one to finish the game in style. Afghanistan reached the target in 18.2 overs for the loss of four wickets.
With this win, Afghanistan have secured a place in the ICC World Twenty20 2016 to be played in India.
The top six teams from qualifier will join the 10 full members for the ICC World Twenty20 2016, which will be held in India between March 11 and April 3, 2016. (Afghan Zariza)