By: Afsan Chowdhury
It was a crunch match that turned into an excitement circus that no one actually expected. The final group stage match which Afghanistan lost to Sri Lanka, was not only the closest One Day International match in many moons but a desperately heart breaking one too for many . This was even true for non-Afghan fans.
It was also the best match in the Asia Cup till date. No words of commiserations will be enough and none attempted to offer to Afghanistan fans but you couldn’t get closer. The Afghan brave heart was on display but sadly, in such close encounters, luck matters. And they ran out of that in the 37th over, the one that mattered. Just one hit away.
The Road to the Match
The two groups at the Asia Cup reflect the reality of the South Asian circlet world- arts, science and commerce. Cricket circles around Indo-Pak rivalry and the Indian market – the largest in the world matters as both countries want that jousting most, the proxy Kashmir war.
So to ensure a bang beginning, the tournament begins with the match between the two. It turned out to be a bit damp. I mean the rains put an end to any excitement and the public saw Indians practice batting, Pakistan bowl and pitches being covered in a hurry as it rained..
Nepal’s loss to Pakistan was expected but not its stand against India. Yes, they lost and India reached their DLS (Duckworth–Lewis–Stern) total without losing a wicket but Nepal looked brave and the crowd cheered.
Sri Lanka dismantled Bangladesh in an orderly fashion making them look more ordinary than usual. And most Afghan supporters seeing that had a right to warm their heart in anticipation. However, the inconsistent Bangladeshi batters did come to the party for once and scored two centuries and a couple of cameos that put 334 on board.
That was climbable but as Dinesh Kartik said on Cricbuzz, the Bangladeshi pacers made the difference. Captain Sakib Al Hasan of Bangladesh team used them well and spin dependent Afgan showed one chink they need to shut. Afghanistan batting never took off and once they hurried, wickets fell allowing a large defeat. That made the task against Sri Lanka, in the crunch match very steep.
Warriors on the pitch
Sri Lanka has won more Asia Cups than others and that was on display as they reached 290 when some had doubted that score in the early part of the innings. It was important as it was a Super 4 decider issue. India and Pakistan were already there and as final calculations showed, so was Bangladesh after defeating Afghanistan but this evening the talk was on the last team playing the last match.
Afghanistan was steady rather than speedy initially but as their CRR hit 6 plus people began to sit up. They had to score the required runs in 37 overs. That was almost 8 runs per over, very high indeed for an ODI clash.
The path to the 37th over
Following posts from my Facebook timeline shows the match and mood unfolding:
- Afghanistan 50/3 Run rate 6.2 . Need 7.5 But ahead in match winning run rate
- Afghanistan needs 105 runs in next 12 overs to reach the Super 4. CRR 7.5 needs 9
- An accident may prevent an Afghan victory but they can’t make it to the super 4. Need 9 runs per over
- Equation for Afghanistan to qualify: 58 runs | 37 balls
- 2 Afghan wickets in one over. Chase possible? 237/7
- Feeling bad for Afghanistan. Losing it in the final over. Just couldn’t get that 4, lost a wicket
- Sri Lanka wins by 2 runs and shows class and nerve in the end. Great cricket
No, it wasn’t to be and I leave it to experts’ to figure that out but for a cricket fan, Sri Lanka made a great escape. Afghanistan failed in the last six balls and couldn’t pull off a super win. It was a failure to win, not a defeat. But didn’t Rashid Khan know he could get a six in the last three and take the team home ? No matter what the results, congrats Afghan Cricket Team!
(Afsan Chowdhury is an acclaimed Bangladeshi author, historian and former journalist with BBC)