Afif, Mehidy script Tigers stunning victory

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Sports desk, Feb 23: Bangladesh 219 for 6 (Afif 93*, Miraz 81*, Farooqi 4-54) beat Afghanistan 215 (Najibullah 67, Rahmat 34, Mustafizur 3-35) by four wickets

The Shakib Al Hasan-Mahmudullah partnership in Cardiff is often regarded as the greatest comeback story in Bangladesh cricket history, as it helped the team to the Champions Trophy semis. On Wednesday, Afif Hossain and Mehidy Hasan Miraz engineered another memorable turnaround, putting together a record stand of 174 runs to lead Bangladesh to victory against Afghanistan.

At 45 for 6 in the 12th over, chasing 216, Bangladesh seemed down and out. Enter Afif and Mehidy.

The Afghans watched in disbelief as both players cracked career-best ODI scores, Afif eventually completing the win in the 49th over with a blunt through midwicket. Mehidy celebrated first, running towards Afif, who was unbeaten on 93. Mehidy finished with 81 not out.

Such a fairy-tale finish didn’t seem possible at the start of the innings, when Fazalhaq Farooqi, the 21-year-old fast bowler, blew away Bangladesh’s top order in his first four overs.

Afif and Mehidy, though, refused to give in. Bangladesh have had 100-run stands after such disastrous starts before but never one that got them to a win. In fact, this is the first time that a chasing team has bounced back from losing their first six wickets for under 50 runs.

Afif led the scoring with an unbeaten 93 that had boundaries all around the wicket. He struck the ball sweetly through the covers, latched on the full-tosses, and flicked and clipped the ball with ease. He even brought out the dink through the slips a few times.

Mehidy played the cut shot effortlessly. He laced the ball every time the Afghan pacers gave him enough room, and even used two pull shots for fours. Mehidy played the anchoring role, never allowing the scoring to drop, nor getting bogged down while Afif hit freely.

Farooqi must have wondered what hit him. He finished with 4 for 54, unable to break the seventh-wicket stand as Bangladesh’s match-winning duo expertly saw off Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb ur Rahman, refusing to panic in the face of adversity. The pair even sat out a 15-minute break for floodlight trouble at one point.

Their calm approach was in complete contrast to the terrible start Bangladesh made to the chase. Farooqi got one to nip back on Litton Das, who gave a thin inside edge to wicketkeeper Rahmanullah Gurbaz, who shot up to appeal before anyone else. When the umpire said not out, it was based on Gurbaz’s conviction that Hashmatullah Shahidi took the review.

That opened the floodgates from one end. Farooqi got one to seam back into Tamim Iqbal’s front pad. The ball at first appeared to have hit the Bangladesh captain outside the offstump but Afghanistan successfully reviewed. In his next over, Farooqi slammed one into Mushfiqur Rahim’s pads, which was given out by the on-field umpire. Mushfiqur reviewed, unsuccessfully.

After three wickets that went to the third umpire, Farooqi clean bowled debutant Yasir Ali at the end of the fifth over. Mujeeb joined the wicket-taking party in the eighth over when Shakib chopped on to his stumps. When Mahmudullah edged Rashid’s half-tracker to Gulbadin Naib at slip, Bangladesh were six down, with seemingly no way back.

Earlier in the day, Najibullah Zadran had top-scored with 67 off 84 balls with six boundaries, but Afghanistan collapsed from 194 for 5 in the 45th over to be bowled out for 215.

Rahmanullah Gurbaz’s dismissal in the third over, when he skied Mustafizur Rahman to mid-on, gave Bangladesh the early advantage. Ibrahim Zadran, playing his second ODI, tried to stabilise the innings with Rahmat Shah, but the former was caught at slip off Shoriful Islam for 19. Taskin Ahmed, who had Ibrahim dropped at fine-leg, finally removed Rahmat, caught behind for 34, before Mahmudullah dismissed the captain Shahidi in the 28th over.

Afghanistan got a bit of a boost from the 63-run fifth-wicket stand between Nabi and Naiibullah. But when Taskin had Nabi caught behind for 20, the home side seemed to have wrested the advantage. Shakib had Naib lbw and bowled Rashid for a duck in the 45th over, while Mustafizur dismissed Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Yamin Ahmadzai. In between, Shoriful Islam took out Najibullah in the 49th over.

Every Bangladesh bowler barring Mehidy got among the wickets; Mustafizur finished with three scalps, while Shakib, Shoriful and Taskin took two each.

Source: ESPNcricinfo