Early flurry of wickets put Afghanistan under pressure – Rashid Khan

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Need to protect net run-rate became key ahead of clash with New Zealand

After losing a flurry of early wickets in a steep chase of 211 against India, Afghanistan had to veer away from their original approach and protect their net run-rate, ahead of what could be a virtual quarter-final against New Zealand this Sunday. So said Rashid Khan after Afghanistan got to 144 for 7, eventually losing by 66 runs.

“Definitely, that’s the kind of thing we had in the mind after losing a few wickets,” Rashid said at the post-match press conference. “As a team, we planned to go there and score as many runs as possible; [then] just to focus more on the run rate, and that might play a main role in the last game when we’re playing against New Zealand. That could be a big difference at the end.

“So, yeah, the message was clear, just go play smart cricket and play 20 overs and get as many as possible, so that was the kind of mindset of the players.”

Afghanistan, however, will not be guaranteed a semi-final spot even if they just topple New Zealand in their last group-stage fixture on November 7. They might have to win by a certain margin to factor in a huge victory for India against Namibia the next day.

Having won batting first against Scotland and Namibia, Afghanistan changed up their formula on Wednesday, putting India into bat. Rashid explained that Afghanistan had aimed to exploit India’s vulnerability around batting first. India had managed only scores of 151 for 7 against Pakistan and 110 for 7 against New Zealand batting first in Dubai, but on a much better batting track in Abu Dhabi, they maximised the powerplay and finished with 210 for 2.

“It’s a kind of a wicket where you can chase 170-180, but that extra 30 runs… India have a deep batting line-up, so they tried to use the last three-four overs with which they took the total to 210,” Rashid said. “But that was the mindset as a player as well. Already, the Indian team struggled in the first two games in the batting department, so we, as a team, just tried to attack on that department, [in] which they struggled, and if we got success, we can be on the winning side. They played good cricket and took the target to 210, which was a bit much – like 20-25 runs – but credit goes to them.”

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WATCH – India beat Afghanistan by 66 runs

Rashid had an off day with the ball, giving up 36 runs in his four overs without taking a wicket – his fourth-worst analysis in T20Is. According to Rashid, his figures would’ve been more respectable had he not conceded back-to-back sixes in the 14th over. Rohit Sharma first jumped out to a quickish wrong’un and swatted it over midwicket before sitting back and slog-sweeping the spinner over square leg.

“I think only a two-ball difference in the whole spell,” Rashid said. “One he played a good shot and one I bowled a bad ball. Those two sixes, otherwise my economy would have been six, five-and-a-half, so that was, I think, a difference.

“But looking to the wicket, it was pretty hard for a spinner. It wasn’t spinning that much but still, you have to use your experience. As they had a very good start at the beginning, the openers had a good start, so it’s always very tough as a spinner when openers are still there and you’re bowling in the middle overs and then you see the top order there.”

While Rahmanullah Gurbaz had recovered sufficiently after hurting himself in the outfield against Namibia, Mujeeb Ur Rahman missed a second successive game through injury. Rashid said that there is still no clarity over Mujeeb’s fitness.

“We don’t have any clarity about him, how he is, but we hope that he is fit enough for the next game,” Rashid said. “As a player you don’t know what’s going to happen in the next couple of days. He had a full rest since he got injured. He bowled a couple of balls, but I can’t say anything at the moment. Could be very bad, could be very good, as well. Let’s see what’s going to happen in the next couple of days and then we’re going to decide.”

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

(With Inputs from ESPN)

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