Scotland denied as Afghanistan squeak first victory
With just three balls to spare, Afghan cricketers record their first World Cup win
Afghanistan beat Scotland in a thrilling finale to claim their first-ever World Cup victory and leave the Scots still searching for theirs after 11 consecutive defeats.
The result means Scotland are now officially the worst nation to have appeared in a World Cup, their 11th straight loss surpassing the Netherlands' previous record of ten defeats on the bounce.
The fact that it was close, with the Afghans winning by one wicket with three balls to spare, will be of little consolation for Scotland, who are appearing in their third World Cup.
This is Afghanistan's first and, after defeats to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in their opening matches, they snatched victory at the death against Scotland thanks to a sparkling innings by Samiullah Shenwari.
His 96 saved the Afghans from disaster as they chased down Scotland's modest total of 211 in Dunedin. Only Matt Machan and Majid Haq built any scores of note, the pair both scoring 31 in the Pool A clash, while Shapoor Zadran was the pick of the Afghan bowlers, picking up four wickets for just 38 runs in his ten overs.
Afghanistan began brightly in their pursuit of Scotland's total, only losing their first wicket when the score was 42, with their second coming four runs later. But disaster struck midway through their 50 overs as the Scots took five wickets for just 12 runs to leave the Afghans reeling at 97 for seven.
That was the cue for Shenwari to play his match-winning innings, clubbing five sixes and seven fours in his 96 to steer Afghanistan to the brink of victory. Though he fell with his side still 19 short of the target, a last-wicket partnership between Zadran and Hamid Hassan saw Afghanistan home in the final over. The result lifts them into fourth place in Pool A, above England, who also have two points but an inferior run rate.
The momentous win was acknowledged by the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, who tweeted: "Congratulations. It was a fantastic and spirited performance from our boys. Well done! We are very proud of them."
Similar messages were also tweeted from the cricket boards of Australia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, all aware of the progress Afghan cricket has made in the past 14 years since a national team was formed. In response to all the messages of support, the Afghan Cricket Board replied in a tweet: "We made an impossible one possible, wow, great effort from team Afghanistan."
The win sparked scenes of joyous celebration across Afghanistan as fans took to the streets to acclaim their sporting heroes. "It is all about the players," said the country's coach Andy Moles. He added: "They are so passionate and I am just glad they can have this success."