Mohammad Shahzad and Shafiqullah Shafiq both hit aggressive half-centuries yesterday to help Afghanistan beat Hong Kong by seven wickets in their ICC Twenty20 World Cup qualifying clash in the Bangladeshi city of Chittagong.
Shahzad notched up a fiery 53-ball 68, while Shafiq smashed a career-best 50 not out off just 24 balls to help Afghanistan reach their 154-run target with 12 balls to spare in the Group A match.
Shahzad, who was in miserable form in the preceding Asia Cup tournament and was out for nought in their first World Cup fixture against Bangladesh, hit three sixes and six boundaries in a chancy knock.
Shafiq completed the task with a well-timed boundary to complete his maiden 50 and seal the win.
Shahzad had his full share of luck yesterday as sloppy Hong Kong fielding gave him two lives on 25 and 64.
When was finally dismissed in the 16th over with 38 still needed, the Afghan side were far from home. However, Shafiq then hit three sixes off paceman Aizaz Ahmed’s 17th over to reduce the target to 11 runs.
Hong Kong, who chose to bat, got off to a disastrous start when they lost opener Irfan Ahmed to the first ball of the match, bowled by left-arm paceman Shapoor Zadran, who finished with 2-27.
It was left to Mark Chapman (38), Waqas Barkat (32) and Jamie Atkinson (31) to put the innings back on track with some sensible batting.
Barkat and Chapman added 60 for the third wicket and at 102-3 in the 14th over, Hong Kong should have put together a higher total then their 153-8.
However, spinners Mohammad Nabi (2-27) and Hamza Hotak (2-32) put the brakes on Hong Kong’s progress.
Hong Kong lost their first match to Nepal and a second defeat means that they are out of the tournament.
After going down to hosts Bangladesh in their first game, Afghanistan earned a lifeline with yesterday’s win as they try to get through to the next round.
Joining Bangladesh in recording an opening win in Group A on Sunday was Nepal.
Six qualifiers are competing along with hosts Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in the first round and winners of each group will then contest the Super-10 round with the top eight Test nations: Australia, Pakistan, South Africa, England, New Zealand, India, Sri Lanka and the West Indies.
The Super-10 round is to start on Friday, with the final set for April 6 in Dhaka.