2016 Asia Cup Qualifiers, Afghanistan v UAE: All-round Mustafa gives UAE a major shock win over Afghanistan
The Asia Cup, that was established in 1984, was a fifty-over tournament until the 2014 edition. The 2016 edition of the tournament is the first tournament to be played in the T20 format after the Asian Cricket Council decided that the format would be based on what format any major tournament would be played.
With the 2016 ICC World T20 to be held in March 2016, the Asia Cup for 2016 will be a warm up for the Asian teams before they feature on the big stage. But, before five teams can fight it out for the Asia Cup crown, four Associate Nations will battle it out to become the fifth contender in the tournament proper.
In the first match of the Asia Cup Qualifiers, Afghanistan took on the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Outer Stadium in Fatullah, Bangladesh. Afghanistan were the favourites going into the qualifiers, however, what ensued will have woken cricket fans in Afghanistan after their team was beaten by 16 runs by a dominating UAE.
UAE won the toss and elected to bat first and got off to a brilliant start after openers Rohan Mustafa and Muhammad Kaleem put on an 83-run partnership for the first wicket in just 8.5 overs.
Mustafa was the main threat as he played a gem of an innings to score 77 off 50 balls, a knock that included 7 fours and 4 sixes. After UAE lost Mustafa and World Cup hero, Shaiman Anwar in quick succession, it seemed like Afghanistan would pull things back.
However, Usman Mushtaq and Mohammad Shahzad scored 48 runs in the last five overs to take UAE to an excellent score of 176/4 in 20 overs.
17-year-old all-rounder, Rashid Khan was the pick of the bowlers as he picked up three wickets and conceded only 25 runs in his four overs.
In reply, Afghanistan lost both their openers, Mohammad Shahzad and Usman Ghani cheaply and were in trouble straight away tottering at 9/2 in 2.2 overs.
Karim Sadiq played an innings that exuded class as he scored 72 off 48 balls, hitting 8 fours and 1 six. His 47-run partnership with Mohammad Nabi was the best in the Afghanistan innings and it looked the duo would take the Afghans close to victory or even to a victory.
Barring the aforementioned duo, only Najibullah Zadran reached double figures for Afghanistan and UAE kept picking wickets ar regular intervals and did not allow the Afghans to have a chance at the target.
After a dominating performance with the bat, Mustafa picked up three wickets in the last over of the game and made it an easy decision as to who should be named the man-of-the-match.
Mohammad Naveed and Farhan Ahmed picked up two wickets each for UAE while Amjad Javed and Ahmed Raza picked up one wicket each.
UAE will look to continue the winning momentum after beating the No. 9 ranked T20I nation. On the other hand, Afghanistan will need to fight back and win their upcoming games if they are to make it to the main tournament.
Brief Scores: UAE 176/4 (Mustafa 77, Kaleem 25; Rashid Khan 3/25) beat Afghanistan 160/10, 19.5 overs (Sadiq 72, Nabi 23; Mustafa 3/19, Farhan Ahmed 2/28) by 16 runs.