There were two decent partnerships – 62 between Samiullah Shenwari and Nawroz Mangal, and 58 between Mohammad Nabi and Najibullah Zadran – but the rate of progress was so slow that Bangladesh was never really tested. With the bat, it most certainly had been, with the first 30 overs a dour struggle enlivened only by some sparkling strokeplay from Soumya Sarkar. After 35 overs, Bangladesh was 146 for 4. Then came the Batting Power Play, during which Shakib and Mushfiqur plundered 48. And though wickets fell in a heap after the two were dismissed, a further 73 runs were added in the last ten overs.
Mushfiqur and Shakib transformed an innings that had been skewed in Afghanistan’s favour. Hamid Hassan, the most feted of the Afghan bowlers, was singled out for punishment, though he did return to bowl Shakib for 63, a 51-ball innings that featured six fours and a big six behind square leg.
Mushfiqur, who needed just 40 balls for his half-century, worked the ball around beautifully and also found the gaps. He clipped Aftab Alam off his toes for six and hit five fours as well as Bangladesh found real impetus in the latter stages.
Tamim stroked a couple of lovely drives through the covers, but was otherwise subdued. There was little by way of strike rotation either. But it was only when Mirwais Ashraf, bowling second change, came on that Afghanistan got the breakthroughs that its small band of supporters had been craving. First, Tamim edged one behind for Afsar Zazai to take an excellent tumbling catch to his left, and then Anamul was trapped in front.
Consolidation came in the shape of Mahmudullah and Sarkar, who showed glimpses of real class while easing the ball into the vacant spaces. There was one straight six off Ashraf, who had bowled his first eight overs with immaculate control conceding just 17, before going for 15 in his ninth.
Mushfiqur and Shakib added 114 in just 15.3 overs, and though Hassan struck twice late on – Sabbir Rahman chopped one on after a slower ball deceived Shakib – it was Bangladesh that finished strongly. Mushfiqur made 71 from 56 balls before lofting a full toss to deep midwicket, and Mashrafe Mortaza’s late cameo ensured that Afghanistan would have to chase well over five runs an over.
Mashrafe struck with the sixth ball of the innings, as Javed Ahmadi got a leading edge back to the bowler, and when Zazai was given out leg before to Rubel Hossain’s first ball, the Afghan drumbeats were almost silent. Asghar Stanikzai then edged the last ball of Mashrafe’s second over to first slip, where Mahmudullah held on after a first of a juggle. It was 3 for 3, and effectively game over.
Nabi’s strokeplay did lift the Afghans in the crowd, as he and Najibullah took the total past 100, but the asking rate by then had climbed well beyond nine an over. Shakib rapped Najibullah on the pad, and Joel Wilson upheld the appeal. Afghanistan went upstairs, but only lost its review. The next ball, Nabi sliced Mashrafe to the fielder at mid-off. And that was pretty much that.