Dunedin, Feb 26: A valiant knock from Samiullah Shenwari (96) inspired Afghanistan to a thrilling one-wicket victory against Scotland in a ICC World Cup Pool A game at the University Oval here Thursday.
After skipper Mohamad Nabi won the toss and decided to bowl first, Afghanistan's opening bowlers Shapoor Zadran (4/38) and Dawlat Zadran (3/29) helped them bowl Scotland out for 210. (Afghans dream of Test cricket)
In reply, Javed Ahmadi (51) played a crucial role other than right-hander Shenwari. Shenwari was supported well by Dawlat (9), Hamid Hassan (not out 15). Hassan and Shenwari put up a 60-run stanbd for the ninth wicket befoe the latter fell with his side still requiring 19 runs to win.
Shapoor (not out 12) and Hassan survived some anxious moments to see the team home with a wicket and three balls to spare. With this win, Cup debutants Afghanistan registered their first victory in the tournament.
Earlier, lower-order batsmen Alasdair Evans (28) and Majd Haq (31) put up a 62-run stand for the ninth wicket to ensure that Scotland cross the 200-run mark.
Afghanistan bowlers maintained a tight line and length and with the support of a lively Oval pitch, they spelt trouble for the Europeans very early. Opener Calum McLeaod failed to open his account after facing 10 balls as the batsman offered a simple catch to Najibullah Zadran at backward point off a Dawlat delivery.
Another medium pacer Hassan (1/32) trapped new batsman Hamish Gardiner (5) in front of the wickets to leave Scotland in a spot of bother at 38/2 in 10.5 overs. It was a struggle for Gardiner as he couldn't get it going despite staying at the crease for 20 balls.
Kyle Coetzer (25), who scored 71 against England in their last match, looked good but he also perished. Right-arm medium pacer Dawlat ran through his defence to leave them reeling at 40/3.
Matt Machchan (31) and skipper Preston Mommsen (23) were in a damage control mode and they put up a 53-run partnership for the fourth wicket before Nabi rattled the stumps of the former.
Gulbadin Naib forced an edge off Mommsen bat which was gleefully accepted by wicketkeeper Afsar Zafai to leave the Scottish in further trouble at 95/5 in 22.2 overs.
Left-arm pacer Shapoor started his wicket-taking spree, dismissing Matthew Cross (15), Josh Davey (1). Dawlat hunted back to take the wicket of Richie Berrington (25) that dismantled Scotland at 144/4 in 36.4 overs.
Evans and Haw came to Scotland's rescue before both of them were dismissed by Shapoor. Iain Wardlaw remained unbeaten for 1.
At the time of defending the total, Evans (2/30) played a leading role. He dismissed opener Nawroz Mangal (7) and Ashghar Stanikzai (4) to dent the Afghanistan chase.
Ahmadi scored eight fours to socre a 51-ball 50 before perishing to medium pacer Berrington (4/40) that left the team precariously placed at 85/3 in 18.1 overs.
Within next 12 runs and 5.3 overs, Afghanistan were 97/7. Davey took the prized wicket of skipper Nabi (0), while Berrington accounted for Zafai (0) and Najibullah (4). Naib fell for a duck to give Davey his second wicket.
This is when Shenwari started his historic innings and guided the team home with the support of lower-oprder batsmen. The 28-year-old had scored 42 and 38 against Bangladesh Sri Lanka with his knocks not able to fetch them a win in both the matches. He belted five sixes and seven fours, he brought his team back into the game.
With 19 runs still needing to win, Shenwari hit Haq to Davy at the deep midwicket and had to walk back to the pavilion in huge disappointment. But, Shapoor and Hassan ensured that his valiant knock doesn't go waste.