In the first of two 13th-16th place playoffs held in Benoni, Afghanistan opted to bowl first against the USA. However, they struggled to make an early breakthrough as Prannav Chettipalayam and Siddharth Kappa played cautiously during the initial Powerplay.
Chettipalayam decided to up the ante in the 11th over, smashing back-to-back fours off Allah Mohammad Ghazanfar. Nevertheless, the tide turned with the introduction of skipper Naseer Khan, who immediately made an impact.
The left-arm spinner managed to trap Kappa in front of the stumps for 12, breaking the opening partnership. In his third over, he struck again, this time dismissing Chettipalayam, who handed a simple catch back to the spinner, ending his innings at 33.
Soon after, Aryaman Suri attempted a sweep shot off Arab Gul Momand but was adjudged LBW, leaving USA struggling at 68 for 3. Afghanistan then turned to Ghazanfar, who had gone wicketless in his previous five overs, with the aim of not allowing the USA batters to settle down.
This strategy paid off as the enigmatic spinner left Rishi Ramesh clueless, bowling him with a delivery that went with the angle. In his next over, Ghazanfar had Manav Nayak caught at mid-on for 12 runs, thanks to a leading edge.
Utkarsha Srivastava once again assumed the role of anchor for USA, a role he had played on several occasions during this tournament.
However, in the 39th over of the match, Faridoon Dawoodzai made a crucial impact by taking two wickets in quick succession. He removed Amogh Arepally and Utkarsha Srivastava, dealing a significant blow to USA’s batting efforts.
USA’s innings concluded at a total of 148, as Afghanistan’s bowling unit put on an impressive display in Benoni. Ghazanfar was the pick of Afghanistan’s bowlers, finishing with figures of three for 30.
Afghanistan’s hope of effortlessly chasing the target was quickly shattered as USA’s new-ball bowlers, Arya Garg and Ateendra Subramanian, made a significant impact by taking two wickets within the first two overs of the innings.
Garg struck again, dismissing Sohail Khan Zurmati, leaving Afghanistan reeling at 11 for three.
A partnership gradually took shape as Jamshid Zadran and captain Naseer Khan worked to rebuild Afghanistan’s innings. However, Subramanian returned to the attack and removed Zadran for 23. Another promising partnership was interrupted a few overs later when Numan Shan was bowled by Subramanian.
With the USA consistently taking wickets, Afghanistan’s scoring rate declined, making the run-chase more intriguing. Aaryan Batra delivered a crucial blow when he dismissed Naseer for 39, with Afghanistan yet to cross the three-figure mark.
Ghazanfar was run out by a direct hit from cover just two overs later, leaving Afghanistan in a trouble at 104 for seven. However, a pivotal eighth-wicket partnership between Arab Gul Momand and Rahimullah Zurmati injected excitement into the contest during the death overs.
Despite the tight bowling from Subramanian, Garg, and Khush Bhalala, the Afghan duo held their ground and pushed the game to the final over. Requiring four runs off four balls, Momand played a remarkable slog sweep off Bhalala, sending the ball sailing over mid-wicket for a six, securing a thrilling victory for Afghanistan.
Zurmati’s unbeaten 37 and Momand’s crucial 23 were the driving forces behind Afghanistan’s remarkable turnaround. Their unbeaten partnership of 47 runs ultimately steered Afghanistan to victory in a challenging run-chase. Subramanian was the pick of the USA bowlers, taking three for 20 in his 10 overs.
Afghanistan skipper Naseer Khan stated that it was a tough tournament for the team in the post-match presentation.
“It was a tough tournament for us, especially me as captain. We didn’t do well in the Group stages, but we’re glad to tick off this win. In the last two matches, we were a bit unlucky. We didn’t do well in the field and struggled with the bat. It would have been a different story if the top-order performed well in the last few games.”