SHARJAH, United Arab Emirates (AP) — High-flying Afghanistan rattled Bangladesh through its spinners to notch a convincing seven-wicket victory and a berth in the Super 4 of the Asia Cup on Tuesday.
Off-break bowler Mujeeb Ur Rahman and leg-spinner Rashid Khan restricted Bangladesh to 127-7 by snaring six wickets between them after captain Shakib Al Hasan won the toss in his 100th Twenty20 international and opted to bat.
Najibullah Zadran made a blistering unbeaten 43 off 17 balls as he smashed five of his six sixes against Bangladesh fast bowlers in the death overs and Afghanistan cruised to 131-3 with nine balls to spare.
Ibrahim Zadran made a sedate unbeaten 42 off 41 balls but Najibullah took charge against fast bowlers Mustafizur Rahman (0-30) and Mohammad Saifuddin (1-27) as Afghanistan topped Group B with its second straight win.
“Everyone knows Rashid and Mujeeb are world-class spinners, that’s why we were in the game in the first 10 overs," Afghanistan skipper Mohammad Nabi said. "Everyone knows we have power hitters in the death and that’s why we made sure not to lose early wickets, so that our power hitters could finish the game.”
Earlier, off-spinner Mujeeb mopped the top three batters, including the key wicket of Shakib, inside the batting powerplay to finish with 3-18 before Rashid (3-22) rushed through the middle-order with his sharp googlies.
Mosaddek Hossain stood out with 48 not out off 31 balls which featured the only lucky six of the innings. Azmatullah Omarzai caught Mosaddek well but touched the boundary cushion with his boot before relaying the ball into the hands of Rashid.
“It was always tough when you lose four wickets in the first 7-8 overs,” Shakib said. “I thought the bowlers bowled exceptionally well to get us back into the game, (but) we know that Najibullah is a dangerous player. On a wicket like this we thought we had the game, but credit to how they batted.”
Bangladesh pinned down Afghanistan's top order through its experienced left-arm spinner Shakib and Mahedi Hasan. Rahmanullah Gurbaz (11) tried to break the shackles in the powerplay, only to get stumped off Shakib in the fifth over while Hazratullah Zazai’s (23) struggled to score freely on a slow surface before off-spinner Hasan had him stumped midway through the innings.
Fast bowler Saifuddin had Bangladesh on top when he trapped Nabi lbw in the 13th over, but Najibullah’s power-hitting against the fast bowlers wiped out Bangladesh hopes in the death overs.
Afghanistan made an imperious start to the Asia Cup when it routed five-time champion Sri Lanka in its opening game and is the first team to reach the Super 4 round.
India, which defeated Pakistan on Sunday, is the favorite to top Group A as it takes on qualifier Hong Kong on Wednesday.
More AP cricket: https://apnews.com/hub/cricket and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports