Afghanistan suffer massive dent to World Cup hopes

Hong Kong scored their first ever ODI win over a Full Member when they beat Afghanistan by 30 runs on a rainy afternoon at the Bulawayo Athletic Club. The victory was built around Anshuman Rath’s half-century and was sealed by an outstanding spell of offspin bowling from Ehsan Khan, backed up by some inspired fielding.
As a result, Afghanistan were left needing a miracle to qualify for the 2019 World Cup. They have lost three out of three matches in this tournament so far and will need several things going their way to stay in contention.
Afghanistan were trundling along steadily in pursuit of 242 when Ehsan was brought on from the clubhouse end in the 16th over. With loop and flight, he tempted Rahmat Shah into an expansive drive. With dip and turn, he spun the ball sharply in between bat and pad to disturb the stumps. With that, Afghanistan were 56 for 2, and Hong Kong had their opening. Before his first over was up, Ehsan had also dismissed the set Ihsanullah for 20, a gloved sweep landing in the hands of Rath, tumbling to his left at slip.
At 57 for 3, with Mohammad Nabi still to bat, Afghanistan might still have considered themselves in a favourable position.
But Hong Kong’s bowling attack never let the pressure drop, with Tanwir Azfal’s medium pace particularly effective. Bowling a wicket-to-wicket line with Scott McKechnie up to the stumps, Afzal didn’t give the batsmen much to work with. Having made the first incision with the wicket of Javed Ahmadi for 22, his figures in his first spell were 6-0-15-1.
The pressure built up by the bowlers brought desperate strokes against Ehsan at the other end. With the required rate closing in on six an over, Samiullah Shenwari bent low to sweep but missed the ball entirely to be bowled for 9, as Afghanistan slipped to 73 for 4.