Rashid insists that Afghan World Cup hopes still alive


Harare (AFP)

Rashid Khan insisted that "anything can happen" and that Afghanistan are still holding hopes of qualifying for next year's World Cup in England and Wales, after beating the United Arab Emirates by five wickets on Tuesday.

Rashid took five for 41 as the UAE were bowled out for 177 and team-mates Najibullah Zadran and Gulbadin Naib both hit unbeaten fifties to see Afghanistan home with more than 15 overs to spare in Harare.

Afghanistan didn't carry any points into the Super Six round, but two successive victories mean they are now level with Ireland on four points.

If they win their final match against the Irish on Friday convincingly and Scotland and Zimbabwe both lose their remaining games against the West Indies and the UAE respectively, Afghanistan could still snatch one of the two places for the World Cup.

"Anything can happen," said Rashid. "In the Super Six, it's quite difficult for anyone to go directly (into the final).

"Still 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."

It was the 19-year-old Rashid's fourth ODI five-for, taking him to a staggering 96 wickets in just 42 games.

"It feels good to take five-wicket haul and to contribute in the bowling department," he added.

"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."

After a poor start to the tournament with losses to Scotland, Zimbabwe and Hong Kong, Afghanistan have kept themselves in contention with wins over West Indies and the UAE.

"In this Super Six, the target was to win all three matches and just see what happens," said Rashid. "Anything can happen in the match between UAE and Zimbabwe. We can only hope for the best."

Rashid carried the extra burden of captaincy in this tournament as regular captain Asghar Stanikzai recovered from an emergency appendectomy.

While his bowling performances thus far have been inconsistent and haven't reflected his no. 1 ranking in the ODI and T20 formats, Khan insisted that the pressure of captaincy had not weighed him down.

"I didn't feel any pressure when I was captaining and bowling," he said. "I just enjoy myself, whether I'm captain or not captain. I just try my best to enjoy myself."

- Starc record in sight -

Rashid was introduced to the attack fairly late after UAE won the toss and decided to bat, but he quickly made an impact.

He had opener Chirag Suri caught behind for a gritty 22, and then removed Mohammad Usman lbw as UAE slipped to 84 for five.

Shaiman Anwar and Mohammad Naveed inspired a UAE fightback, but Khan returned to the attack to dismiss both men, adding the final wicket of no. 11 Qadeer Ahmed to complete his five-wicket haul.

Should he reach 100 wickets within his next nine matches he will become the quickest bowler in the history of the game to the landmark, beating Australia's Mitchell Starc.

While Khan led Afghanistan's bowling effort, it was Naib and Najibullah who secured their win with the bat after a top-order collapse had seen them slip to 54 for five.

Najibullah's 63 was his third half-century of the tournament, while Naib was named man-of-the-match for his unbeaten 74.

"The batters also did really well," said Rashid.

"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."

UAE coach Dougie Brown echoed Rashid's sentiments, paying credit to the Afghan batting pair.

"You look at the partnership at the end, 100 in a short time," said Brown. "That showed you what people were capable of if they applied themselves.

"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."