Aakash Chopra has highlighted that Afghanistan's fielding lapses cost them a win in their 2023 World Cup league-stage clash against Australia.
Hashmatullah Shahidi and company set the Aussies a challenging 292-run target at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Tuesday. They then gave Glenn Maxwell a couple of let-offs, and the destructive batter made the most of it by smashing an unbeaten 201 off 128 deliveries to take Australia to a three-wicket win with 19 deliveries to spare.
Reviewing the game in a video shared on his YouTube channel, Chopra pointed out that Afghanistan's fielding has proved to be their Achilles heel. He elaborated (4:35):
"Fielding has let this team down. This has happened earlier as well and has happened again. It has become slightly frustrating that Afghanistan's fielding is extremely ordinary. Otherwise, the team is playing extremely well. They lost but won hearts. They will think they lost an opportunity."
The former India opener observed that Mujeeb Ur Rahman's dropped catch of Maxwell changed the course of the game. He said (3:05):
"No one drops catches deliberately but this was a regulation catch, and after that, the match itself went out of their grasp. No one thought a catch would be dropped like that, or Pat Cummins would play almost 70 balls for just 12 runs, or there would be such a big 200-run partnership where one guy would contribute just 12."
Mujeeb put down an easy offering at short fine leg off Noor Ahmad's bowling when Maxwell was on 33. The Australian all-rounder also got two other reprieves, with Shahidi missing a tough opportunity and a leg-before decision getting reversed as the ball was projected to go just over the stumps.
"It seemed like 325 was possible at one stage" - Aakash Chopra praises Afghanistan's batting
On the flip side, Aakash Chopra praised the Afghanistan batters, Ibrahim Zadran in particular, for setting a decent target for Australia. He stated (3:30):
"Before all that, they reached 291 while batting. It seemed like 325 runs were also possible at one stage. They couldn't pace their innings that well but Ibrahim Zadran became the first Afghanistan player to score a century on the World Cup stage."
The reputed commentator appreciated the contribution of the other Afghanistan batters and Rashid Khan for playing a few unconventional shots. He said:
"He did it against a good team and in a good fashion. I rate him very highly. I feel he is extremely organized. Rahmanullah Gurbaz gave a decent start and then Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi and Rashid Khan in the end, everyone hit. Rashid plays different types of shots."
Chopra also praised Afghanistan's bowling in the first half of Australia's innings. Naveen-ul-Haq, Azmatullah Omarzai and Rashid scalped two wickets apiece to reduce Australia to 91/7 but they couldn't put the final nail in the coffin.
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