Nineteen year old Rashid Khan, the first ever teenager to captain a men’s international cricket side was on the losing end in Afghanistan’s first match of the 2019 ICC World Cup Qualifier against Scotland. Scotland defeated Afghanistan by seven wickets, courtesy Calum Macleod’s unbeaten innings of 157 off 146 balls which helped his team reach Afghanistan’s target of 256 with 16 balls remaining.
Speaking after the loss in Bulawayo, Khan said, “The wicket was difficult to bat on, it wasn’t coming good onto the bat. Later on when the sun came out, it was totally different and it was quite easy to bat on. The toss is really important in these games, but that’s not in our hands, there’s nothing we can do about that.”
Khan’s comments after the game did not hide the disappointment of his team’s shock loss to Scotland, but he did not highlight the areas that his team could have performed better in to avoid the loss. Another teenage leg-spinner in the Afghan team, 16 year old Mujeeb Ur Rehman took the important wickets of Kyle Coetzer and Matthew Cross early on in the Scotland innings, but Macleod’s knock which included 23 fours and on six took the match away from Afghanistan.
The ICC World Cup qualifier is currently being contested by 10 teams, for two spots among the world’s top eight ODI teams. Afghanistan and West Indies are among the favourites to qualify for the World Cup in 2019, but the former’s task has been made harder owing to their defeat in the first game itself. Zimbabwe are leading the Group B table after thrashing Nepal by 116 runs, while Ireland and UAE got off to winning starts as well in Group A against Netherlands and Papua New Guinea respectively.
Along with Calum Macleod, it was Richie Berrington who was at the other end of the crease as the pair put together a 208 run stand. Speaking after the game, Scotland captain Kyle Coetzer said, “The standout (performance) for us today is MacLeod. It was an unbelievable effort from him. It’s a great start to the tournament but we will take every day as it comes.”
Khan summed up the performance of his side, adding, “We needed some wickets in the middle and we didn’t do that. They played really well, had a good partnership and that took the game away from us.”