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Dawlat muscles Afghanistan to first win

Afghanistan reinvigorated their hopes of qualifying for the main round of the Asia Cup T20 with a thrilling three-wicket win over Oman in Fatullah on Saturday. The star of the show was Dawlat Zadran, who clubbed two consecutive sixes in the final over bowled by left-arm spinner Ajay Lalcheta as Afghanistan chased down 166 with three balls to spare.

Oman, seeking a repeat of their performance over Hong Kong, opted to bat and were powered by the opening combine of Zeeshan Maqsood (52) and Jatinder Singh (23). Adnan Ilyas, the No. 3 batsman, built on the firm base to score an enterprising 27-ball 54 comprising three fours and four sixes. But his dismissal in the 17th over proved to be the difference between where Oman eventually finished and where they would have liked to finish. Gulbadin Naib, the medium-pacer, was the most economical, picking two wickets and conceding just 24 runs off his full quota.

For the second successive night, Mohammad Shahzad fell inside the second over as Afghanistan slipped right at the start of their chase. That Afghanistan got into a position from where they could chase down the target was largely due to Noor Ali Zadran, whose quickfire start allowed the middle-order batsmen to settle in. Noor Ali’s second-wicket stand of 54 off just 4.4 overs with Asghar Stanikzai, the captain, helped them steer clear of the asking rate.

But the dismissals of Stanikzai and Karim Sadiq, the top-scorer in their loss to United Arab Emirates on Friday, threw a spanner in their works courtesy Mehran Khan as Afghanistan slipped to 60 for 3. The medium-pacer added the scalp of Mohammad Nabi to his kitty soon after to leave Afghanistan wobbly even before they had wiped out half the target.

Najibullah Zadran set about repairing the innings, conjuring a 21-ball 23. In doing so, he ensured a lower-order collapse was averted, and more importantly, brought the difference between runs and balls to just three going into the last four overs. But there appeared to be another twist as Bilal Khan trapped Najibullah and Noor Ali lbw within three deliveries in the 17th over.

With 21 needed off the last two overs, Samiullah Shenwari, who was left out of their tournament opener, hit two successive fours to ease the pressure, taking the game into the final over with 10 needed. After having nearly taken them home, Shenwari holed out to long-on with five balls to play. The scene was set for one of Lalcheta or Dawlat to be a hero. On the night, it was Dawlat’s ice-cool veins that prevailed in a tense clash.

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