Afghanistan 171 and 124 for 3 (Shahzad 56*) beat Scotland 212 and 82 (Ashraf 3-8, Shenwari 3-15, Hassan 3-39) by seven wickets
Another chapter was added to the amazing story of Afghanistan cricket as they won the Intercontinental Cup in Dubai. After two days of twists and turns Afghanistan surged ahead on the third day, winning comfortably by seven wickets over Scotland.
Scotland began the day on 64-6 with an 105-run lead, but they were quickly shot out in a hostile spell of bowling from Hamid Hassan and Mirwais Ashraf. Afghanistan sledged the Scottish batsmen relentlessly and the intimidatory tactic seemed to work. Scotland only added 18 to their overnight score as they were bowled out for 82, setting the Afghans 125 for victory. Hassan and Ashraf both finished with 3 wickets.
Scotland didn’t give up though, and they were reward with Karim Sadiq wicket for just 7. However, Shabir Noori and Mohammad Shahzad were both determined to play their shots, meaning the pressure was easily released. Noori departed for 35 just after lunch but Shahzad made sure there was to be no collapse as he led Afghanistan to the win and the trophy, finishing unbeaten on 56 in an innings containing 7 fours.
When Shahzad hit the winning runs, a drive through the off-side, his team-mates ran on to the pitch to start the wild celebrations.
It was a deserved triumph for Afghanistan, having been undefeated through the league stage, winning all but one of their games. Furthermore, it is a remarkable achievement for a side who had never played first-class cricket together before this tournament started.
All the players contributed throughout a long campaign, with Hassan and Shahzad being the standouts. Hassan was the leading wicket-taker in the competition, with 43 wickets at an average of 19.18, including 5 five-wickets hauls and 2 ten-wicket hauls. Shahzad scored 802 runs, including his 214 not out against Canada, with an average of 80.20, the most runs by any batsmen in the tournament.
Credit should go to former coach Kabir Khan for helping the players adapt to the challenges of the longest and toughest format of the game. New coach Rashid Latif should also be praised for building on Khan’s good work.
The trophy was a fitting end to an extraordinary year for Afghanistan cricket.
Shortthirdman, as he is known, has been closely following Afghanistan cricket since April 2009. He also has a blog, called Short Third Man, which is about all things cricket.