Shafiqullah Blasts Afghanistan To Victory
Afghanistan 154-3 (Mohd. Shahzad 68) beat
Hong Kong 153-8 by seven wickets
ICC World Twenty20 Group A, Chittagong
Shafiqullah hit three sixes in the 17th over of Afghanistan's run chase to set up a seven-wicket win over Hong Kong, whose chances of progressing to the ICC World Twenty20 Super 10s have now disappeared.
He finished unbeaten on 51 in just 24 balls as he turned what looked like a tricky run chase into a victory with two overs to spare after Mohammad Shahzad had earlier struck 68 in 53 deliveries.
Chasing a target of 154 after Hong Kong had posted 153 for eight, the Afghans needed 35 from the final four overs but got there in just 12 balls.
Three times Shafiqullah hit Aizaz Khan over the ropes on the leg side as he and Mohammad Nabi plundered 24 runs from the 17th over.
Seven more came from the first five balls of the 18th and he finished the game off in style, also reaching his half-century, with another leg-side boundary to keep Afghanistan's own hopes of qualifying alive.
Hong Kong had themselves recovered from Irfan Ahmed's second consecutive golden duck to post a competitive score, thanks largely to Mark Chapman (38), Waqas Barkat (32) and Jamie Atkinson (31).
Those three combined well, Barkat and Atkinson adding 42 for the second wicket after Shapoor Zadran bowled Irfan to give Afghanistan the perfect start.
And after Atkinson was trapped in front by Hamza Hotak, Barkat and Chapman put on 60 for the third wicket and place Hong Kong in a very strong position only for Afghanistan to hit back.
After Nabi broke their partnership, he struck again to dismiss Babar Hayat for five and after his wicket fell, Chapman went five balls later when he was bowled by Dawlat Zadran.
Hong Kong were subsequenlty unable to build partnerships during the final overs, Nizakat Khan (9), Munir Dar (3) and Tanwir Afzal (11) also falling as Shapoor and Hamza joined Dawlat in ending with two wickets apiece.
Afghanistan opened with Najeeb Taraki alongside Shahzad, but he lasted just seven balls before he was caught by Nadeem Ahmed off Tanwir.
Shahzad, however, was in superb form, and added 55 together for the second wicket with Asghar Stanikzai, who made 13 in 21 balls.
When Stanikzai was caught by Babar off Aizaz in the 11th over, Hong Kong would have been most people's favourites to go on and win the game from there.
Even more so when Shahzad, having hit six fours and three sixes, finally made a poor connection and was caught by Irfan off Haseeb Amjad.
As he left the crease, he looked as if he had passed on some advice to Shafiqullah, who was not out at the other end and facing a tall order.
Targeting the leg side, Shafiqullah took Aizaz's next over to pieces, almost ran Nabi out, but crucially Nabi got him back on strike at the start of the 18th over.
Five balls later, it was all over and Afghanistan can still dream of making it to the main group stage of the ICC World Twenty20 for the third tournament in a row.
They may need Hong Kong to do them a favour by beating Bangladesh in the final game of the group after Afghanistan have played Nepal.
© Cricket World 2014