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ICC World Cup: Afghanistan beat Netherlands by 7 wickets in Lucknow: Keep semifinal hopes alive

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In the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup, Afghanistan beat the Netherlands by seven wickets at Ekana Stadium in Lucknow last night. Chasing a target of 180 runs to win, Afghanistan achieved the target in 31.3 overs. Earlier, Afghanistan bowled the Netherlands out for a paltry total of 179 in 46.3 overs.

Afghanistan rose up to fifth above Pakistan – even if only temporarily – and kept their semifinal hopes alive with a big seven-wicket win over Netherlands in Lucknow. After spin and excellent ground fielding helped them keep Netherlands down to just 179, Rahmat Shah and captain Hashmatullah Shahidi hit fifties to power the run chase that was capped off in the 32nd over.

Netherlands had very little to bowl with but made a promising start when Logan van Beek had Rahmanullah Gurbaz caught behind down the leg side in just the sixth over. Ibrahim Zadran, his opening partner, made a slow start but Rahmat Shah walked out and took control of the proceedings. He went after Paul van Meekeren in his first over, hitting him for three fours – one streaky, two glorious – and taking Afghanistan to 55 for 1 in 10 overs. Roelof van der Merwe cleaned up Zadran on the first ball after the PowerPlay, but that brought Rahmat and his captain, Shahidi, together for the match-winning stand.

Scott Edwards needed more wickets and quickly if he planned on making the chase any tougher for Afghanistan and brought back Aryan Dutt, one of his best bowlers in the tournament. But batting just got easier under lights and the two batters saw past the young spinner and every other bowling change to put Afghanistan on course for a victory. By the 20th over, Rahmat reached his half-century and took the team past the 100-run mark. Leg spinner Saqib Zulfiqar, playing in his first World Cup game, found a breakthrough against the run of play when he had Rahmat caught off his own bowling. But the wicket was too little, too late as Azmatullah Omarzai joined Shahidi to take the team home. En route to Afghanistan’s fourth victory of the tournament, Shahidi scored a solid half-century and got the winning runs.

Earlier in the day, his bowlers brought all the solidity that was needed to tie down Netherlands who opted to bat first. Mujeeb Ur Rahman struck in the very first over to remove Wesley Barresi – trapped leg before – to add a 100th ODI wicket to his name. Max O’Dowd then threw caution to the wind with a stroke-filled essay that included him getting nine fours inside the PowerPlay. However, his good work was undone by a brilliant moment on the field from Omarzai, whose direct hit from fine leg sent the opener packing for 42 off 40 balls.

Colin Ackermann and Sybrand Engelbrecht then took it upon themselves to drag Netherlands ahead but a miscommunication on a call for a run led to the former’s run out on 29. Netherlands were truly shaken when captain Edwards became the third run out victim as he went for a sweep, missed and ventured out of the crease unaware of where the ball had gone off the inside edge. As it turned out, it went only as far as wicketkeeper Ikram Ali Khil, who took the bails off on what turned out to be a very busy innings for him.

Netherlands were on a downward spiral since soaring in the first PowerPlay, as they lost their fifth wicket in the 21st over when Bas de Leede was caught behind off Nabi. While Netherlands batters were carefully trying to play out Rashid Khan, Hashmatullah Shahidi introduced his left-handed clone – Noor Ahmad in the 24th over. Saqib Zulfiqar became Noor’s first wicket in the evening when he nicked one to Ali Khil while trying to cut a straight delivery outside the off-stump.

Engelbrecht made up for the earlier mishap that led to Ackermann’s dismissal by scoring a gritty half-century, but he then became the fourth batter to get run out when he took on the arm of Nabi at midwicket. The lower-order couldn’t sustain much longer after Engelbrecht’s exit, as they folded in the 48th over. In what was a poor half of cricket for Netherlands, Afghanistan earned themselves a World Cup stat – the lowest they’ve bowled out an opposition for in the 50-over tournament.

Brief Scores:Netherland 179 in 46.3 overs (Sybrand Engelbrecht 58, Max O’Dowd 42; Mohammad Nabi 3-28, Noor Ahmad 2-31) lost to Afghanistan 181/3 in 31.3 overs (Hashmatullah Shahidi 56*, Rahmat Shah 52; Roelof van der Merwe 1-27) by 7 wickets

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