Afghanistan demonstrated their cricket prowess as they convincingly bested the Netherlands by seven wickets this past Friday, significantly enhancing their prospects of advancing to the World Cup semi-finals.
In pursuit of a target of 180 runs, Afghanistan exhibited their dominance by reaching the goal with a remarkable 111 balls to spare. This victory marked their fourth triumph in the tournament, following earlier successes against formidable opponents such as defending champions England, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan. As a result of this impressive feat, they now stand with eight points, on par with Australia and New Zealand, who currently occupy two of the coveted semi-final qualifying positions.
Undefeated India has already secured their place in the last four, with South Africa poised to join them in the semi-finals.
The upcoming showdown for Afghanistan is a potential grudge match against the five-time champions, Australia. It’s worth noting that Australia previously controversially canceled a series against Afghanistan in January, citing their protest against the Taliban’s treatment of women.
Notable performances from the Afghan side included Rahmat Shah’s third consecutive half-century and skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi’s unbeaten 56, also marking his third consecutive fifty. Shah had previously notched 77 against Pakistan and 62 in the victory over Sri Lanka. In the match against the Netherlands, he delivered a solid 54-ball 52 with eight boundaries and partnered effectively with Shahidi in a crucial 74-run third-wicket stand. This partnership firmly placed Afghanistan on the path to victory, despite early dismissals of openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz (10) and Ibrahim Zadran (20).
Shah was eventually caught and bowled by Saqib Zulfiqar with 129 runs on the board, sealing their triumph. Shahidi’s contribution, a composed 56 off 64 deliveries, was in line with his previous strong performances, including an 80 against India and 58 in the match against Sri Lanka.
In the earlier stages of the game, Afghanistan’s bowlers limited the Netherlands to a modest total of 179 all out. The Netherlands, harboring slim hopes of making it to the semi-finals, won the toss and elected to bat but faltered as four of their batsmen were run out.
Wesley Barresi, a 39-year-old opener, was dismissed by spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman in the very first over. Max O’Dowd and Colin Ackermann managed to build a partnership of 70 runs for the second wicket, but a series of unfortunate run-outs set them on the back foot.
O’Dowd, while on 42, fell victim to a direct hit by Azmatullah Omarzai from fine leg. When the score stood at 92-2, Ackermann (29) failed to reach the crease in time when Ikram Alikhil removed the bails with a precise throw by Rashid Khan.
On the subsequent delivery, skipper Scott Edwards, while attempting a sweep, lost sight of the ball and was run out without scoring as he aimlessly ventured out of his crease. Mohammad Nabi and the teenage wrist spinner Noor Ahmad further rattled the Dutch side by dismissing Bas de Leede and Saqib Zulfiqar, with Logan van Beek’s dismissal coming courtesy of a smart stumping by wicketkeeper Alikhil.
Sybrand Engelbrecht contributed with 58 runs, featuring six boundaries, before becoming the fourth victim of a run-out, failing to outpace Nabi’s throw from midwicket. This left the Dutch side struggling at 152-8 before eventually being bowled out after 46.3 overs, with Nabi emerging as the standout bowler with a commendable 3-28.
Nabi attributed the success of securing run-outs to the pressure exerted on the batsmen, which led to their mistakes and poor judgment.