Scotland lose to Afghanistan as run chase falls apart

Scotland's hopes of a morale-boosting win against Afghanistan were dashed yesterday as they fell 78 runs short in another rain-affected clash at the Grange, Edinburgh.

Craig Wallace fails to connect with a delivery from Shapoor Zadran at the Grange yesterday. Picture: Donald MacLeod

At one stage Preston Mommsen’s men looked on course for only their second win in the last six one-day internationals against their rivals. However, a disastrous batting collapse in a frenetic run-chase proved their undoing.

Set a revised target of 211 from 36 overs following a lengthy delay, Scotland lost Kyle Coetzer in the first over but Craig Wallace signalled his intentions by sweeping the first delivery he faced for six.

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It was the first of a flurry of big hits as Wallace and Matthew Cross took the attack to the Afghans, posting 50 off just 5.2 overs.

Wallace earned a reprieve when he appeared to be caught on the boundary in Mohammad Nabi’s first over but the fielder had stepped on the rope to hand the batsman his third maximum.

Cross attempted the same shot three balls later only to pick out the fielder, this time a foot inside the boundary. The Aberdonian made 24 from 21 deliveries with two boundaries and two clearances.

A further blow followed when Wallace, having raced to 33 from 15 balls, offered a simple return catch to Rashid Khan and suddenly Scotland, on 59-3, were behind the par score. Mommsen and Richie Berrington nudged the Scots back in front with some good running between the wickets but the pendulum swung again when the former holed out at long leg off Shapoor Zadran. This time the visitors refused to loosen their grip, dismissing Scotland for 132 in only 27.1 overs.

Earlier Afghanistan made a steady start after skipper Asghar Stanikzai had won the toss and elected to bat. However, with a combination of tight bowling and good fielding, the Scots managed to restrict the boundaries and contain the run-rate.

The normally belligerent Mo Shahzad was strangely subdued as Brad Wheal and Safyaan Sharif maintained a good line and length, although it took the introduction of Ali Evans to make the breakthrough.

Afghanistan had reached 31 when Evans struck, Noor Ali Zadran glancing the ball to fine leg where Sharif took an excellent catch.

Javed Ahmadi managed to get the board ticking with consecutive boundaries off Evans before Shahzad came to life with some trademark hitting.

Ruaidhri Smith came in for some heavy punishment as the Afghanistan opener bludgeoned the day’s first maximum and sent an even bigger one out of the ground in the same over.

Con de Lange managed to apply the brakes with several overs of tight spin before Wheal returned to remove Ahmadi thanks to De Lange’s fine catch.

Scotland should have been celebrating again when Shahzad, on 60, hoisted a De Lange delivery towards long-on where Wheal put down a regulation catch. It could have been a costly error as Shahzad clearly had his sights set on a fifth ODI century.

He was denied, though, when, having moved to 84, he edged a slower ball from Smith to Cross.

At 142-4 in the 13th over, Afghanistan may still have been targeting a total around 300 but Scotland returned from a brief rain break to grab two wickets in quick succession. First, Evans found the leading edge of Asghar Stanikzai’s bat and Berrington took an easy catch though there was nothing straightforward about De Lange’s superb diving effort that provided Wheal with his second wicket as Najibullah Zadran departed.

Further rain brought Afghanistan’s innings to a premature end on 178-6 before the D/L calculations did Scotland no favours.