Afghanistan (Rahmat Shah 113, AC Evans 1 for 45) beat Scotland 325-7 (CS MacLeod 100, Gulbadin Naib 3 for 72) by 2 runs (DLS)
Scotland suffered in the rain for the second time this week as Afghanistan completed a two-run win on DLS in the second ODI at The Grange. After the previous game on Wednesday was washed out, magnificent centuries from Calum MacLeod and Rahmat Shah had set up a grandstand finish before the arrival of rain robbed the watching crowd of a fitting climax to the match.
Having won the toss and elected to bat, Kyle Coetzer was immediately into his stride with a punch through cover for four, but Scotland’s openers initially bided their time in the face of a probing initial spell from Dawlat Zadran and Hamid Hassan. Hamid, operating off a modified run-up in his first international since 2016, tucked up both batsmen with his cramping line, but with Coetzer and Matthew Cross happy to see off the new ball the initial threat was safely weathered.
The 10th over saw an increase in tempo as Cross first pulled Aftab for six then drove him for four, while Coetzer cover-drove down the ground in the 11th and then the 13th to bring up his fifty. Another pull for four took the Scotland captain past 2000 ODI runs, and although Cross (32) fell almost immediately after the drinks interval, caught behind by Mohammad Shahzad off the bowling of Gulbadin Naib, Scotland, at 75 for 1, had a strong platform upon which to build.
Afghanistan’s players were quickly re-acquainted with Calum MacLeod’s reverse sweep as Scotland’s number three found the third man boundary off the slow left-arm of Sharafuddin Ashraf, and after a period of consolidation he and Coetzer began to push again. Aftab Alam, Ashraf and Hamid were all dispatched to the boundary before a sweep from Coetzer brought up the fifty partnership in the 30th. Although Coetzer fell with the score on 152, caught and bowled by Naib for 79, Richie Berrington cut loose with two fours and a lofted six over third man as he and MacLeod raced to Scotland’s third fifty partnership of the innings in only 6.2 overs.
MacLeod had passed fifty in his own right by the time Berrington fell for a rapid 33, and new batsman George Munsey was in similar mood as he looked to continue his phenomenal recent form. Successive deliveries from Naib went for four, six, six and four as Scotland passed 250 until, on 28, his 13-ball cameo was ended by Alam.
The innings, however, belonged to MacLeod, who brought up his hundred with a single off Hamid at the beginning of the 48th over. Off 88 balls, with 10 fours and one six, his eighth ODI century had anchored the Scotland score, and although both he and the inventive Craig Wallace (20) fell to good catches by Najibullah Zadran that same over, the hosts had a defendable total on the board.
It had been a curate’s egg display from Afghanistan. Hamid, with 2 for 55 on his return to international cricket, was the pick of an attack which missed the world-class trio of Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb Ur Rahman, but after fielding which mixed the excellent with the sloppy – Hazratullah Zazai had a particular moment to forget as he first dropped a regulation chance at deep third man then gave away an overthrow – Head Coach Phil Simmons will be looking for improvement ahead of his team’s first World Cup match against Australia on June 1st.
Afghanistan’s openers began the chase strongly as Mohammad Shahzad drove down the ground for four in the first over. After surviving an anxious moment soon after as he nearly chopped Safyaan Sharif’s first delivery onto his stumps, the wicketkeeper-batsman was soon into his familiar repertoire of pulls, cuts and flicks, while at the other end the big-hitting Zazai looked in ominous form as he pulled the final ball of Brad Wheal’s second over into the crowd for the first six of the innings. Nine came from the next to take the scoreboard to 27, but, with both batsmen looking well-set, Kyle Coetzer stopped the advance in its tracks with a terrific running catch at mid-on to send Zazai on his way for 14.
Luck was against the Scots, however, as a pull from Shahzad in the 11th fell short of Coetzer, while two overs later a similar shot from the opener again eluded the diving Scotland captain. Mark Watt thought he had his man in the 16th as a huge hit from Shahzad was caught on the long-on rope by Calum MacLeod before momentum took him over the boundary, but the batsman both survived and prospered by cutting Richie Berrington to the deep point boundary in the next over. An edge past the wicket-keeper took Shahzad to fifty, before his entertaining innings came to an end as Craig Wallace dived forward to hold on to an excellent low catch at deep square leg off the bowling of Ali Evans.
Rahmat Shah, meanwhile, showed a mixture of effortless timing and impressive belligerence, and after surviving a huge appeal for a catch at slip off Tom Sole, Hashmatullah Shahidi joined him in putting on a century partnership for the third wicket before a swept four and a single took Rahmat to what had been an excellent individual hundred. His loss soon after, caught by Berrington off the bowling of Tom Sole, was tempered by Shahidi’s fifty, but with rain starting to fall heavily all eyes turned to the DLS calculations. After five balls of the 44th the players were forced from the field with Afghanistan two runs ahead of the par score.