Asia Cup 2018: Afghanistan should hold their heads high despite elimination

Denzil Pinto 13:05 24/09/2018
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Afghanistan had a strong Asia Cup campaign

When Samiullah Shenwari chucked his bat and was unable to make connection to Mustafizur Rahman’s last ball delivery on Sunday night, TV pictures of dejected Afghanistan players painted the whole story on what could have been had he struck that boundary.

One big hit to the ropes would have been enough to keep them in the mix of facing defending champions India in Friday’s final. But pride will only be at stake in their final Super Four game against the Men in Blue.

While nothing will be riding on that match in what is effectively a dead rubber in Dubai, captain Asghar Afghan and his team-mates should hold their heads high on how they pushed teams all the way.

Prior to the three-run defeat to Bangladesh, Afghan reiterated the ICC’s latest Test nation are “there not to just play cricket but come to win matches”. They couldn’t win all their games but with two wins in four, stayed true to his words that Afghanistan were not just in the tournament to make up the numbers.

Surprisingly, Afghanistan are only playing in their second Asia Cup with minnows and qualifiers Hong Kong even playing in more with three appearances. But while many teams would have had to do their homework on the Associate side that isn’t the case for Afghanistan.

They have made headlines of their own with the likes of spin stars Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur-Rahman, more often than not, stealing the show. Not to mention their incredible team spirit that has propelled them to being a Test nation.

Rashid Khan (r) has picked up eight wickets so far

Rashid Khan (r) has picked up eight wickets so far

There were even whispers of Afghanistan being dark horses for the Asia Cup and it wasn’t to do with their talent. The fact they played so much cricket in this country was a big advantage with 19 wins in 35 ODIs.

The signs were already there when they crushed Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to top the group with a perfect record.

Two-time champions Pakistan nearly became their third victim only for Shoaib Malik to rescue the Men in Green in the last over to deny Afghanistan a historic ODI win over their neighbours.

While Bangladesh gained revenge to keep their hopes alive, the fact Afghanistan lost both games in the last over proves that Phil Simmons doesn’t have to make drastic changes to the squad.

Once again Afghanistan showed their strength with the ball with Rashid and Mujeeb taking eight and seven wickets already. But what has really shone in the last week has been their batting.

In four games, they have amassed 1007 runs after totals of 249, 255, 257 and 246. That is more than India have registered with 861 runs.

Although Afghanistan will lament the lack of runs, they should hold no fear when they face India on Tuesday. Opportunities like these don’t come around often and although there’s nothing to play for, Afghan and Co will certainly not make things easy for the finalists. After all, they have nothing to lose.

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