Afghanistan came into the ICC World Cup full of hope and aspirations. But with half the World Cup now over, the Afghans are the only team to have lost five games on the trot heading into another massive game against India at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton on Saturday (June 22).
West Indies and Afghanistan were the two teams which had to qualify for World Cup but the Afghans had the bragging rights after winning the World Cup qualifier in Zimbabwe — defeating West Indies in the final by seven wickets.
The year 2018 was, in fact, a great one for Afghanistan when it came to ODI cricket. The triumph at the World Cup qualifiers was followed by a 2-1 series in Ireland but their finest show came in the Asia Cup held in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Afghanistan started the Asia Cup campaign with a stunning 91-run win over Sri Lanka and then an even bigger 136-run win over Bangladesh set up by Rashid Khan’s (57 n.o. & 2/13) all-round show.
Their best performance came in a tied game against India — the last ODI between the two sides. Mohammad Shahzad’s blazing 124 and Mohammad Nabi’s 56-ball 64 guided Afghanistan to a competitive 252/8.
India were looking comfortable in their chase with KL Rahul (60) and Ambati Rayudu (57) putting on 110 runs for the first wicket. Dinesh Karthik came in at No. 3 and scored a composed 44.
MS Dhoni, who stepped in for stand-in captain Rohit Sharma for the Afghanistan game, was leading the side after a long time and his side needed 7 runs to win in the final over with Ravindra Jadeja in the middle with last-man Khaleel Ahmed.
Jadeja slog-swept Rashid for a four off the second ball of the over to make it even more comfortable for India. With India needing 1 to win of the final two balls, Jadeja mistimed a pull-shot straight to Najibullah Zadran as the game ended in a thrilling tie.
Afghanistan ended 2018 with 12 ODI wins from 20 games with one tie and full of confidence in the ability of players like Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb-ur-Rahman, who three of the whom had become household names in the IPL.
For the only other ODI between the two sides one has to go back to 2014 Asia Cup in Bangladesh. Afghanistan were still trying to find their way around the international cricket circuit back then.
Jadeja (4/30), Ravichandran Ashwin (3/31) and Mohammed Shami (2/51) helped bundle out Afghanistan for 159. Virat Kohli’s side strolled to a comfortable eight-wicket win led by half-centuries from Shikhar Dhawan (60) and Ajinkya Rahane (56) — the duo putting on 121 runs for the first wicket.
Afghanistan’s ODI fortunes though appear to have taken a dip after the 2-2 ODI series draw earlier this year in Dehradun. Skipper Asghar Afghan was replaced as ODI captain by Gulbadin Naib just weeks before the World Cup.
Naib is still win-less so far in the World Cup and his task will be cut-out against Kohli’s India who have posted three impressive wins over South Africa, Australia and Pakistan so far.