CWC: Azmatullah 97 not out helps Afghanistan set competitive target

Ahmedabad, Nov 10 (UNI) Riding high on Azmatullah Omarzai unbeaten 97, Afghanistan put up a competitive total of 244 against South Africa in the 42nd match of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup at Narendra Modi Stadium here on Friday.

Azmatullah stitched three crucial 40-plus-run partnerships along with Rahmat Shah (26) in the initial stage, and then with Rashid Khan (14) and Noor Ahmed (26) towards the end.

He reached a patient half-century in the 37th over and added 71 runs in the final powerplay, even as the South Africa bowlers erred in their lines and lengths. Unfortunately though, the No.5 batsman could not get to the three-figure mark.

Opting to bat, Afghanistan got off to a good start, but lost their first wicket on 41, but lost three more in next three overs, resulting in the run rate dipping significantly.

Afghanistan continued to lose wickets and were in a spot of bother at 116/6, and then Azamatullah delivered.

For South Africa, left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj (2/25) was at his miserly best and Gerald Coetzee picked up a 4-fer.

Kagiso Rabada went wicketless and Lungi Ngidi walked off the field with an ankle issue in his first spell. Ngidi came back on the field, and picked up a couple of wickets, but did not look fully fit.

Earlier, Afghanistan openers ensured a scoring rate, but Maharaj drew first ball in his very first ball after removing Rahmanullah Gurbaz (25), snapped up by Heinrich Klaasen at first slip.

In the very next over, Afghanistan lost last match’s centurion Ibrahim Zadran for 15. Coetzee had him caught behind Quinton de Kock. They lost two more wickets in the next 12 balls.

Captain Hashmatullah Shahidi edged to De Kock off Maharaj in his very second over, and soon Afghanistan were struggling at 45/3.

Rahmat Shah and Azmatullah stabilised the innings without losing further wickets as they scored only two boundaries in this phase.

Just when they started to score freely, Rahmat was brilliantly caught at backward point by David Miller, who initially juggled and struggled with the bat.

Rahmat’s wicket brought the Proteas back into the game, and the pacers ran through the Afghanistan middle-order. Ikram Alikhil tried to lift the scoring pace with his attacking intent, but was soon sent back after he nicked one off Coetzee.

In the very next over, Ngidi picked his second breakthrough, getting Mohammad Nabi to edge one behind the wicket.

Hashmatullah Shahidi called it right at the toss and elected to bat first. His reasoning centered around the belief that the wicket would probably turn later in the day.

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