Khurram Chauhan burst sets up Canadian victory
A devastating opening spell by Khurram Chauhan, well supported by new-ball partner Harvir Singh Baidwan, destroyed Afghanistan's top order at the Sharjah CA Stadium on Thursday, reducing them to 38 for five in less than ten overs and setting up a comfortable four-wicket victory to level the two-match series.
Although the Afghans managed to recover to 177, thanks to fighting innings by Asghar Stanikzai (33), Raees Ahmadzai (37) and Mohammad Nabi (62), it never seemed likely to be enough on a ground where anything under 250 is likely to be a losing score, and although the Canadians wobbled a little as they neared their target, they completed their win with more than ten overs to spare.
Chauhan, who had taken four for 39 in his side's narrow defeat on Tuesday, needed just 28 deliveries to repeat the feat this time, removing Shafiqullah Shafaq and Mohammad Shahzad in his first over, Nowrooz Mangal in his fourth, and then debutant Shabir Noori in his fifth. Baidwan, meanwhile, had dismissed Karim Khan Sadeq at the other end.
Asghar and Raees put on 51 for the sixth wicket as Afghanistan battled to rebuild, before Rizwan Cheema chipped in by bowling Asghar. Raees fell the same way six overs later, and the Afghans were 119 for seven. Neither Samiullah Shenwari nor Shahpoor Zadran lasted long, but the arrival of last man Aftab Alam at the crease was the trigger for a remarkable onslaught by Nabi, who hit a succession of sixes to reach his second ODI half-century, dominating a last-wicket stand of 49.
He was eventually the last man to go, having made his 62 off 57 balls with three fours and five sixes.
Chauhan was one of those who suffered at Nabi's hands, but his figures of four for 43 were still a fine effort. Cheema took two for 24 and Umar Bhatti two for 28.
There was time for six overs before the dinner break, and Afghan skipper Nowrooz Mangal tried four bowlers in this short session, including two spinners. It was Karim who struck the first blow, bowling the dangerous Cheema for 8, and Canada went to dinner on 23 for one.
Trevin Bastiampillai was caught behind off Shahpoor shortly after the break, but then Sandeep Jyoti and Ash Bagai added 82 for the third wicket before Jyoti, who had batted very cautiously for a 74-ball 38, became Aftab's first victim in ODIs.
Bagai, who was visibly devastated by Tuesday's defeat despite his own contribution of 91 not out, was batting very positively, reaching a second consecutive half-century, but on 52, made from 59 balls with six fours, he was trapped leg-before by Karim, and Canada were 127 for four.
They had plenty of overs as well as wickets in hand, and it was evident that Afghanistan would have to produce something special if they were to avoid a series-levelling defeat. With their attack missing Hamid Hassan and Dawlat Ahmadzai, Nabi was their best - and perhaps only - hope, and he raised his side's hopes by taking a return catch from Sunil Dhaniram and then bowling Bhatti four balls later.
144 for six, and there were definite signs of tension on the Canadian side. But then in marched Jawad Dawood, playing in only his second ODI and batting for the first time. He proceeded to belt the second ball he faced, from Samiullah Shenwari, for six, and then did it again two balls later. Suddenly the Canadians needed only 20, and the momentum was with them.
Dawood hit Nabi for four in his next over, and then, when Shahpoor returned, he too was despatched to the boundary. Usman Limbada hit a four off Nabi, and the scores were level, but it was Dawood who took the winning single off Karim. His not-out 26 had come from 19 deliveries - a truly decisive little innings.
The Canadians will now go into their Intercontinental Cup match, starting on Saturday, with renewed confidence, but for the weary and battered Afghans it will take a big effort to pull themselves up for the demands of a four-day game. From what we have seen in the past, however, Nowrooz's men are certainly capable of it.