Scotland left powerless by Afghanistan in World Cup Super 12s opener - but heavy defeat needs put in perspective

Scotland are aiming to use the next fortnight to show cricket’s powers that be that they deserve to become the next full-member nation, but on Monday they were simply powerless as they were comprehensively beaten by Afghanistan in their opening match of the T20 World Cup second round.

Rashid Khan of Afghanistan celebrates the wicket of Chris Greaves of Scotland with team-mate Mohammad Shahzad.
Rashid Khan of Afghanistan celebrates the wicket of Chris Greaves of Scotland with team-mate Mohammad Shahzad.

Afghanistan’s big hitting batters – and spin bowlers Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Rashid Khan – led the way and showed Shane Burger’s men exactly how tricky the ‘Super 12s’ phase at the T20 World Cup is going to be.

From ball one in Sharjah in the UAE – in the Scots first game ever in the second phase of a global event – the Afghanistan outfit were a cut above as they won by a thumping 130 runs.

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Afghanistan, along with Ireland, became the 11th and 12th nations to earn full-member status from the International Cricket Council in 2017 and have participated in Test matches since 2018.

Scotland's Mark Watt is bowled by Mujeeb Ur Rahman.

Perhaps more important than Test status, full membership brings with it more exposure to the top sides in the world on a regular basis and also greater financial rewards.

It is undoubtedly the next step for Scotland, but in the shorter term they have to get over this humbling – and fast.

They have to dust themselves down ahead of a winnable match against fellow qualifiers Namibia, who are 19th in the world, in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

It is also important to put Monday’s loss into some context, just as Scotland were not world beaters last week after they saw off Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea and Oman in Muscat to progress, they are certainly not no-hopers now.

Afghanistan's Najibullah Zadran dives to make their ground as Matthew Cross removes the bails.

They are 14th in the world in this format with Afghanistan eighth, so it was always going to be a big ask to come out on top.

And with all the unrest that is going on away from the sporting arena in Afghanistan just now, their T20 skipper Mohammad Nabi stated before this match “the only happiness in our country is cricket” just to up the ante even more.

Certainly, the fervent support watching Nabi’s back home in their troubled country on television with have been delighted with what they saw – while Scottish fans will have been watching from behind the couch.

Batting first, the opposition hit 11 sixes in their innings and many of them were over – or nearly over – 100 metres in distance. Indeed, a couple cleared the stands with ease.

They also hit 14 fours and when you take all of that into consideration, it shows how well spinner Mark Watt bowled.

From his first 17 balls he only conceded five runs and although the Afghanistan batters pilfered 18 runs from his next seven balls, the Heriot’s captain finished with figures of 1-23 and he is certainly someone who likes the challenge of taking on top level players.

Openers Hazratullah Zazai set the tone for the rest of the innings with 44 from 30 balls while Najibullah Zadran made 59 from 34 balls and Rahmanullah Gurbaz 46 off 37 balls as Afghanistan posted a dauting looking total of 190-4.

George Munsey and Kyle Coetzer set about the reply with purpose, but once the latter was out in the fourth over, things started to go badly wrong.

Ur Rahman took three scalps in the fourth over and finished with 5-20 from his four overs to claim the player of the match award while fellow spinner Rashid Khan, a wizard of a bowler, claimed 4-9 from 14 balls as the Scots were 60 all out.