Colin Thomson, The Royal Gazette (Bermuda)
On a day that will perhaps long live on in the memory of local cricket fans, a catastrophic middle order collapse condemned Bermuda to a humbling 60-run loss against minnows Afghanistan at Senwes Park in Potchefstroom yesterday.
To put it simply, the Afghans were a cut above their heavily fancied opponents in every facet of the game and disciplined in their approach.
Polished knocks of 83 from diminutive opener Karim Sadiq and an unbeaten 71 from skipper Norooz Mangal initially laid the platform for Afghanistan's innings. But it was an unbroken 49-run tenth-wicket partnership between skipper Mangal and tailender Rais Ahmadzai (11) that virtually batted Bermuda out of the match.
Leg-spinner Samiullah Shinwari (four for 28) then formed a lethal duo with fast bowler Hamid Hassan (two for 18), the eighth bowler used by the Afghans, to completely undermine Bermuda's middle and lower order that choked under pressure.
Once off break spinner Mohammad Nabi had snapped a burgeoning 118-run stand between left-handers Glenn Blakeney (68) and Stephen Outerbridge (62), Bermuda's remaining seven wickets tumbled for a paltry 54 runs. Tailender George O'Brien Jr. (12) was the only other Bermuda batsman in double figures.
Addressing the media shortly after his team's second straight loss of the tournament, Bermuda skipper Irving Romaine admitted the Afghans were the better team on the day.
"They beat us and played well and hats off to them. They played excellent and you have to respect that," he said.
In order to keep their World Cup qualifying hopes alive, Bermuda must win their remaining three matches against Denmark, Kenya and the Netherlands and hope for other results to go their way.
"It's going to be a challenge, but I'm sure we can rebound from this," a philosophical Romaine added.
Delighted over his team's giant-slaying act, Afghanistan skipper Mangal took victory all in stride.
"This win was a big achievement for us and all of the guys are really encouraged to have beaten a team like Bermuda. Today we played hard and just wanted to win the match and I think we have the talent to go further," he said.
Earlier, opener Sadiq and number three bat Asghar Stanikzai added exactly 100 runs for the second wicket in 89 minutes off 140 balls to place their team firmly in the driver's seat.
Left-arm spinner Dwayne Leverock (one for 33) eventually made the big breakthrough in the 28th over when he had Stanikzai grabbed by David Hemp, fielding at mid on, for a well-played 38. All-rounder Janeiro Tucker then kept the pressure on by picking up two wickets in eight deliveries as the momentum shifted in Bermuda's favour, Afghanistan slipping from 146 for two to 157 for six in the space of a four overs.
At 190 for nine, it seemed only a matter of time before Bermuda's bowlers would mop up the tail and restrict their opponents under the double century mark. But loose bowling at the death allowed Afghanistan's tail to wag profusely as they clobbered 49 unanswered runs that ultimately proved crucial in the grand scheme of things.
Off spinner Rodney Trott bowled extremely well within himself and was rewarded with impressive figures of two for 33. Tucker finished with two for 44 and pacer O'Brien two for 53.
In reply, Bermuda were forced on the back foot from the outset as openers Lionel Cann (0) and Jekon Edness (one) were blown away cheaply before Blakeney and Outerbridge dropped anchor and steadily repaired the damage, albeit at a crawling pace.
Blakeney faced 104 balls and hit eight boundaries and took 102 minutes and 89 deliveries to reach his half-century. Outerbridge, who hit six boundaries, was equally as circumspect in his approach and reached his half-century off 85 balls in 95 minutes.
The Bailey's Bay pair brought up the century partnership in the the 33rd over of the innings in 93 minutes off 162 balls before Blakeney chopped the ball onto his stumps to ignite a slide that signalled the end of the Bermuda resistance.