In the virtual Super Six Qualifier in East London, Nepal led by Aakash Chand’s superb spell put on a strong bowling performance against Afghanistan.

Asked to bowl first, Nepal struck five times in the Powerplay, including once each in the first two overs. 

Gulshan Jha opened up with the wicket of Numan Shah in the very first over before Chand took the lead, snaring five wickets before the 12-over mark.

Pegged back by Chand’s sensational bowling display, Afghanistan’s tail needed to wag to take them out of the rut they were in. From 43/6, Naseer Khan and Allah Mohammad Ghazanfar, the latter going for the big shots in a counterattacking cameo, added 42 runs for the seventh wicket to give Afghanistan’s score a lift. 

Tilak Bhandari accounted for Ghazanfar (37 off 21 balls) and Dipesh Kandal had Arab Gul Momand trapped in front for a duck as Afghanistan slipped to 88/8. 

Just when it seemed like they would be bowled out in double digits, Faridoon Dawoodzai got stuck in at one end. With skipper Naseer Khan for company, the duo made a half-century partnership that salvaged Afghanistan’s batting display to an extent. 

Kandal eventually put an end to the stand in the 38th over with the wicket of Naseer (31 off 83 balls)  and Dawoodzai (29 off 65 balls) followed soon after as Afghanistan were bowled out for 145.

Dawoodzai and Khalil Ahmed then shared three quick wickets between them early in the second innings to reduce Nepal to 24/3.

Skipper Dev Khanal and Aakash Tripathi fought back with a 49-run partnership that gave Nepal the rebuild they were seeking. Captain Naseer, though, turned up with the ball to break the stand with the wicket of Tripathi for 16. 

Momand had Deepak Dumre caught at slip soon after and Afghanistan sensed an opening despite Khanal going strong at the other end. Naseer added another in the very next over to put Afghanistan on top for arguably the first time in the match. 

However, Khanal found support from Dipak Bohara and the two combined in a crucial partnership that put Nepal on the brink of a win. 

When less than 20 runs were required to win, Ghazanfar stunned Nepal with the big wicket of Khanal for 58 to add a late twist in the game.

Despite Dawoodzai dismissing Bohara and Chand with Nepal just a hit away from the target, Afghanistan couldn't get the final wicket to force a win. 

Bhandari held his nerve to tuck Momand behind gully for four to lead Nepal to a memorable victory. 

Nepal ensured their Super Six spot with the win while Afghanistan, who played the semi-finals in the last edition of the tournament in 2022, were knocked out after finishing winless. 

Player of the Match Aakash Chand was elated at his bowling performance and also talked of the nerves when he went out to bat in the tense final moments.

“I was feeling nervous [when batting] towards the end. I was just closing my eyes and praying to God. The last time we qualified was in 2016. It's this one after that. Nothing better can happen for us. With the new ball, I was just look for swing and it worked out.”