Cricket | Rashid still hopeful of Afghanistan qualifying for World Cup



Rashid Khan, Afghanistan's premier spinner, noted that that "anything can happen" and they are still confident of qualifying for the World Cup to be held in England in 2019 after the Asian country defeated UAE at the Old Hararians Sports Club to keep their hopes of progressing to the mega event alive.

With their win against UAE, Afghanistan now have four points in the Super Six. The Asian country's chances of progressing depends on other results. Afghanistan themselves have to defeat Ireland in order to book their place in the final of the World Cup Qualifiers.

"Anything can happen. In the Super Six, it's quite difficult for anyone to go direct," Rashid said. "Till now, a single team hasn't qualified. Everyone is in doubt. That is a good thing. We just need to win the last match and see what happens."

Afghanistan started the tournament on a poor note, losing games to Scotland and Hong Kong but Nepal's victory against Hong Kong allowed them to sneak through to the Super Six stage of the tournament. Rashid himself had a quiet start to the tournament before taking a five-wicket haul in their crucial game versus UAE. The wily leg-spinner was pleased with his five-wicket haul and observed that there was enough assistance on offer for the spinners.

"In this Super Six, the target was to win all three matches and just see what happens. Anything can happen in the match between UAE and Zimbabwe. We can only hope for the best. It feels good to take five-wicket haul and to contribute in the bowling department. I did well in the last matches as well, but I was unlucky in not taking many wickets. Today I took wickets, and it was a good day for me.

"Initially, the ball was gripping and turning, which helped us to take early wickets. And then we put pressure on them, with dot balls, and at the end they tried to play shots and lost wickets," he added.

Rashid also praised Gulbadin Naib and Najibullah Zadran for stitching a crucial unbeaten stand of 124 for the sixth wicket and steer the side to a well-earned win. Naib was named Player of the Match for his unbeaten 74, while Najibullah cracked a fine hand of 63.

"The batters also did really well. They took responsibility. Losing five wickets for 50 or 60, and chasing 180, they formed a very good partnership. They did a good job to bat to the end and win the game.

"[Najibullah] is very talented, and the way he has played in this tournament is superb. He took responsibility in the end, and that's the main thing. On these wickets, taking responsibility and playing a long innings is really good. At the end, you'll have time to hit and make some runs. He took responsibility, as he has throughout the tournament," he added.

Meanwhile, UAE's head coach Dougie Brown noted that Najibullah and Naib took the responsibility of guiding their side past the finishing line and that proved to be the difference between the two teams.

"Rashid spoke about taking responsibility, and I think the two guys at the end showed exactly what responsibility was on a pitch, which, really, there were no demons in. Both teams bowled exceptionally well."

Having lost both their games in the Super Six so far, UAE don't have a chance to make it to the final but Brown said that the tournament has given the required exposure. "It's been great. We've learned a lot. We don't often get a chance to play Full-Member teams. We are a team who are learning. We strongly believe that as a team, we're working on the right things. And on a day when we piece together 100 overs of really solid cricket, we know that we can put in a strong performance against anyone."