Najibullah blitz powers Afghanistan into Asia Cup Super Fours

Najibullah Zadran struck six sixes to lead Afghanistan to victory over Bangladesh in the Asia Cup

Najibullah Zadran’s batting blitz and “world class” spinners powered Afghanistan into the Asia Cup Super Four stage with a seven-wicket win over Bangladesh on Tuesday.

Chasing 128 for victory, Afghanistan were in trouble at 62-3 when Najibullah (43 not out) joined Ibrahim Zadran (42 not out) for an unbeaten stand of 69 as they won with nine balls to spare in Sharjah.

Spinners Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Rashid Khan took three wickets each to set up the victory as Afghanistan restricted their opponents to 127-7 after Bangladesh elected to bat first in the Twenty20 tournament.

Afghanistan, led by Mohammad Nabi, registered their second straight victory to become the first of the six teams to reach the next phase of the competition, which acts as a tune-up to the T20 World Cup in October-November.

“Everyone knows Rashid and Mujeeb are world class spinners, that’s why we were in the game in the first 10 overs,” said an elated Nabi.

“We were ahead of the game because we got early wickets. Everyone knows we have power hitters in the death. That’s why we made sure not to lose early wickets, so that our power hitters could finish the game.”

Afghanistan lost Rahmanullah Gurbaz for 11 when skipper Shakib Al Hasan, playing his 100th T20 international, had the opener stumped with his left-arm spin.

Mosaddek Hossain dismissed Hazratullah Zazai for 23 as Afghanistan seemed to lose control of their chase with runs hard to come by.

Nabi departed in the 13th over and the Bangladesh supporters, who clearly outnumbered the Afghans, raised the roof.

But the left-handed Najibullah timed the chase to perfection as he finished with a flurry of sixes and one four in his 17-ball blitz.

The innings put Ibrahim’s knock in the shade as he hit four fours in his 41-ball stay.

– Mujeeb the destroyer –

Earlier, Mujeeb shared the new ball with left-arm quick Fazalhaq Farooqi and struck in each of his first three overs, including the key wicket of Shakib for 11. He was named man of the match.

Rashid joined forces with Mujeeb after the powerplay to send back wicketkeeper-batsman Mushfiqur Rahim, trapped lbw for one.

Mushfiqur failed to pick a superb Rashid googly which the umpire gave not out, only for Afghanistan to successfully review the decision in their favour.

“It was always tough when you lose four wickets in the first seven, eight overs. But I thought the bowlers bowled exceptionally well to get us back into the game,” said Shakib.

“Credit to Afghanistan though they played really well. We know that Najibullah is a dangerous player. On a wicket like this we thought we had the game, but credit to how they batted.”

Afif Hossain and Mahmudullah Riyad attempted to rebuild but Rashid broke through with a another googly that trapped the left-handed Afif lbw for 12.

Rashid struck again and cut short Mahmudullah’s stay on 25 as the batsman top-edged a shot to deep mid-wicket.

Mosaddek then took on the bowlers to smash four fours and a six in his late blitz of 48, but Afghanistan finished the innings by conceding just seven runs in a final over that included a run out.