Chittagong: Mohammad Shahzad and Shafiqullah Shafiq hit aggressive half-centuries to help Afghanistan beat Hong Kong by seven wickets in the World Twenty20 tournament in Chittagong on Tuesday. Shahzad notched up a fiery 53-ball 68 while Shafiq smashed a career-best 50 not out off just 24 balls to help Afghanistan reach their 154-run target with 12 balls to spare in the Group A match. (Scorecard)
Shahzad, who was in miserable form in the preceding Asia Cup and was out for nought in the first game against Bangladesh, hit three sixes and six boundaries in a chancy knock. Shafiq completed the task with a well-timed boundary to complete his maiden fifty and seal the win.
Shahzad had his full share of luck. Sloppy Hong Kong fielding gave him two lives, on 25 and 64. And when he was finally dismissed in the 16th over with 38 still needed, the Afghans were far from home. But Shafiq hit three sixes off paceman Aizaz Ahmed's 17th over to reduce the target to 11 runs.
Hong Kong had lost their first match to Nepal and a second defeat means they are out of the tournament. Afghanistan, who went down to hosts Bangladesh in their first game, earned a lifeline with Tuesday's win as they try to get through to the next round.
Shahzad said he was happy to contribute after his recent loss of form. "I didn't play well in the last few matches so the coach told me to take my time," he said. "Everybody supported me. It was a good fifty for me and it was a good win for us. In T20, everything is possible. We need to see the result of the next match and hopefully we can make it to the next round."
Hong Kong, who chose to bat, got off to a disastrous start when they lost opener Irfan Ahmed to the first ball of the match, bowled by left-arm paceman Shapoor Zadran who finished with 2-27. It was left to Mark Chapman (38), Waqas Barkat (32) and Jamie Atkinson (31) to put the innings back on track with some sensible batting.
Barkat and Chapman added 60 for the third wicket and at 102-3 in the 14th over, Hong Kong should have put together a higher total then their 153-8. But spinners Mohammad Nabi (2-27) and Hamza Hotak (2-32) put the brakes on Hong Kong's progress.
The top team from each of the two preliminary groups will join the eight seeded teams in the Super-10 stage, starting March 21. Ireland and the Netherlands won their opening matches in Group B on Monday.
Hong Kong 153-8 in 20 overs (M. Chapman 38, Waqas Barkat 32, Jamie Atkinson 31; Shapoor Zadran 2-27, Mohammad Nabi 2-27; Hamza Hotak 2-32)
Afghanistan 154-3 in 18 overs (Mohammad Shahzad 68, Shafiqullah Shafiq 51 not out)
Afghanistan won by seven wickets.