Morkel and Steyn blitz too much for Afghanistan
It was always going to be a tough task for Afghanistan if they were going to beat South Africa and qualify for the Super 8 stage. And if it wasn't for the express pace of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, they would have had a chance.
Afghanistan captain Nowroz Mangal won the toss and put South Africa into bat. Despite losing Loots Bosman early on when he was short of his ground going for a second leg bye, they got off to a flier, reaching 45-2 when Graeme Smith was out in the fifth over after scoring 27 from 14 balls.
Smith fell to Nabi, and that over began a process of the Afghan spinners putting a stranglehold on the game. After being on 45-2 from 4.2 overs when Smith was out, they scored slowly and had only moved onto 90-5 when Boucher was out in the 15th over. Samiullah Shenwari didn't take a wicket but bowled very well, going for just 14 runs from his four overs.
Hamid Hassan came on to bowl in the 13th over, and straight away removed the danger-man Jacques Kallis. He lad Mark Boucher trapped lbw from the first ball of his next over and Afghanistan were on top in the match. But a well paced sixth wicket partnership of 43 from JP Duminy and Albie Morkel came at the perfect time before Duminy became the third victim for Hassan.
Hassan finished with 3-21 from his four overs, and with him nearing 90mph on the speed gun, he has certainly announced himself on the world stage. South Africa ended their innings on 139-7.
It had been said before the match that Afghanistan would struggle against the South African pace attack, but the way in which their upper order imploded was still unexpected. When they managed to get bat on ball, Afghanistan were edging most of the balls they faced. Dale Steyn took 2-6 and Morne Morkel took 4-20 as Afghanistan collapsed to 14-6 and then 32-8.
Hamid Hassan then joined Mirwais Ashraf at the crease, and they made sure that Afghanistan would avoid the lowest score in Twenty20 internationals. Ashraf dominated the partnership at first, and he hit two sixes, one of which sailed out of the ground over the Garfield Sobers pavilion, and he had helped take Afghanistan to 65-9 when he was bowled by Charl Langeveldt.
Hassan hid a second six before he was out, with Afghanistan having made 80, a fine comeback from 14-6, losing by 59 runs.
Afghanistan now go back home after announcing themselves on the major world stage. They may have lost both matches, but they certainly weren't completely outclassed. A number of English county sides are still looking for overseas players for the Twenty20 Cup, and they'd do well to look at a couple of the Afghan side, especially Hamid Hassan.
Their next scheduled tournament is division one of the World Cricket League in the Netherlands in two months time. The other teams will no doubt have been watching at home and noting Afghanistan's weakness to the short ball, something they need to work on if they do face the big teams more often.