Cricket: Afghanistan prove too good for Scotland

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SCOTLAND last night suffered further T20 torment as Afghanistan cruised to a comprehensive seven-wicket victory to seal their mini-series 2-0.

The Saltires were looking for revenge at the Sharjah Stadium following Sunday’s 27-run loss. However, after winning the toss and electing to bat, Gordon Drummond’s side again failed to sparkle, posting a disappointing 139-7 before their rivals raced to victory with 15 balls to spare.

The Afghanistan batsmen showed much more aggression with a series of hard-hitting shots which quickly put the issue beyond doubt. They took full advantage of the hard new ball to reach 53-1 after the six power-play overs. Scotland, in contrast, had managed to score at barely five runs an over at the equivalent stage.

Karim Sadiq set the tone with a blistering 29-ball 34 including four boundaries and one huge six, while Nawroz Mangal also managed to score at better than a run-a-ball.

Mangal was first to go when he was bowled by Iain Wardlaw while Preston Mommsen had Sadiq caught behind by David Murphy. However, at 80-2 in the tenth over, Afghanistan had the platform they needed to go into over-drive.

Mo Shahzad raced to 46 from only 25 deliveries and, although he became Wardlaw’s second victim, he had taken his side within touching distance of their target.

Earlier the Saltires failed to dominate with the bat as the impressive Hamid Hassan quickly put them on the back foot.

Among the best fast bowlers in associate cricket, Hassan took just three deliveries to send Richie Berrington packing for a duck before going on to claim 4-22. Kyle Coetzer also went cheaply before Calum MacLeod and Matt Machan repaired the damage in a stand of 49. The run-rate, though, was too pedestrian for this form of the game as the Afghan bowlers were content to build the pressure. It paid off when Machan offered a return catch after an enterprising 39 while Mommsen quickly followed in a similar manner.

MacLeod and Moneeb Iqbal both managed 31 but Scotland’s total looked inadequate and so it proved.

The Scots must quickly lift their spirits for two crucial 50-over World Cup qualifying games against the same opponents tomorrow and Friday.

“The T20s have been a disappointment but the 50-over games have been our main focus since we got here,” said Drummond, who refused to blame his batsmen for yesterday’s defeat.

“Our batsmen learned a lot from Sunday’s game and, to be fair, we weren’t far short of where we wanted to be.

“We thought 150-odd would be a decent score on a difficult wicket so 139 wasn’t bad. But we didn’t bowl well at all – that’s the biggest disappointment.”