T20 World Cup: Steely Rashid Khan carves his name in history | Crickit
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T20 World Cup: Steely Rashid Khan carves his name in history

Jun 26, 2024 06:20 AM IST

Three sixes and a four-wicket haul central to an epic win that booked a maiden T20 World Cup semis spot for Afghanistan

Rashid Khan was furious. Scratch that. Livid. Karim Janat had just done an unthinkable—turn down a run Rashid felt could have been stolen. Stranded mid-pitch, Rashid sent the bat crashing at the ground in frustration, not even trying to hide his rage. Probably realising what he hadn’t done, Janat couldn’t look into Rashid’s eyes while returning his bat. Rashid didn’t care though. One-man army he was by then, looking to clobber as many as he could. A back of the hand slower ball from Tanzim Sakib made Rashid fluff his slog, but the next ball came clean off his bat for a 98m six.

Afghanistan's captain Rashid Khan (R) and Afghanistan's Mohammad Ishaq celebrate the dismissal of Bangladesh's Rishad Hossain during the ICC men's Twenty20 World Cup 2024 Super Eight cricket match between Afghanistan and Bangladesh at Arnos Vale Stadium in Arnos Vale, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on June 24, 2024. (Photo by Randy Brooks / AFP) (AFP)
Afghanistan's captain Rashid Khan (R) and Afghanistan's Mohammad Ishaq celebrate the dismissal of Bangladesh's Rishad Hossain during the ICC men's Twenty20 World Cup 2024 Super Eight cricket match between Afghanistan and Bangladesh at Arnos Vale Stadium in Arnos Vale, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on June 24, 2024. (Photo by Randy Brooks / AFP) (AFP)

Magnitude of that six—out of the three Rashid had hit in a 10-ball 19—won’t be lost anytime soon in the aftermath of Bangladesh’s eight-run defeat to Afghanistan in a nervous-energy sapping, stirring chase that only got more edgy with three rain interruptions. Only Bangladesh know how to make a match out of a simple task—score 116 in 12.4 overs to pip Afghanistan and Australia in the semi-finals race with the pitch becoming decidedly better with time. Bangladesh lost two wickets in two balls but Litton Das calmly stood guard through it all, shoring hopes of a likely comeback.

Rashid was calmer. Naveen-ul-haq struck those twin blows early but at the heart of this epic win was yet another classic spell from Rashid, working his way through the heart of Bangladesh’s batting.

Rishad Hossain didn’t have the maturity to read that googly but each of the other three wickets were well-deserved. To fox Soumya Sarkar with a skidder on a pitch where the ball was coming on to the bat well was something only Rashid could have pulled off. Towhid Hridoy’s dismissal was plotted superbly, asking him to go with the wind but Hridoy couldn’t connect properly. Luring Mahmudullah—possibly Bangladesh’s best player of spin—with a fuller ball was also something only Rashid could have achieved.

That most batters still can’t read Rashid even after a decade is one of the biggest joys of watching him bowl. But that’s just a part of the Rashid the world saw in the most important match of his career till date. Voice of reason, hope, inspiration, leader—Rashid was everything and more while he slowly carved out a win that can potentially change Afghanistan’s wheel of fortune.

Rashid can hit the ball long but that 19 will find its place in Afghan cricketing folklore purely because of the circumstances in which it came. A fifty-run opening stand is par for the course when Afghanistan bat these days but runs were coming excruciatingly slow, with Taskin Ahmed, Mustafizur Ahmed and Shakib Al Hasan conceding just 48 runs in 12 overs. Sixty six dots were bowled, the last of them coming against Rashid but he more than made up with those three sixes.

No one else could have bowled that 13th over as well, effectively eliminating Bangladesh. It was a risky move too, since it meant bowling himself out with six overs still left in the chase. But Rashid took the gamble. It was a rollercoaster ride throughout. Rashid was animated, Dwayne Bravo wasn’t able to watch as coach Jonathan Trott kept asking everyone to slow down the game because of impending rain.

Bangladesh lost wickets, but hung on to hope courtesy Das who survived a close leg-before review in the 16th over. Twelve from 12, and it couldn’t have gotten closer, though completely gettable from Bangladesh’s perspective since Das was still unbeaten. Another reprieve, this time Naveen failing to hold on to a return catch third ball of the 18th over, and Bangladesh would have probably heaved a sigh of relief.

But in the commotion, Das had taken a single to get to 54, bringing Taskin on strike. Naveen bowled a slower one, prompting Taskin to go at it but he only managed to chop the ball onto his stumps. Next ball, Naveen kept it straight and angling in, trapping Mustafizur plumb to seal Afghanistan’s maiden entry into the World Cup semifinals, prompting delirious scenes in the Afghanistan dugout.

Naveen took off on a long, winding victory sprint. Gurbaz broke into tears. Gulbadin Naib, showing no trace of the cramps that made him drop to the ground during the 13th over, raced to get one of the stumps. Rashid was hugging everyone before he had been lifted on shoulders. This was his night; this was Afghanistan’s moment under the sun.

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