If you were looking for a country known for producing the best watches, they would point to Switzerland.
Fast cars? Probably Italy. Mysterious bowlers? Afghanistan, especially definitely. This last nation would also be in dispute for the most stubborn in the face of adversity.
Scotland had reached 27 without losing after three overs in search of 190 from the opposition.
Afghanistan players celebrate their victory against Scotland during the Twenty20 Cricket World Cup match in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
The chase was going according to plan, George Munsey was 17 to 12. But, as you see, when you’ve witnessed your nation being hit by a terrorist group, civilians perishing, there’s not much on a cricket ground that can baffle you. .
The tall, lean figure of the mysterious spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman had reached the emerging fold for the fourth.
Here was the cricket version of a clever magician with a box of tricks in front of a bewildered audience; They have paid to witness the magic, but still have shocked faces when such deception unfolds.
Afghanistan has been a hotbed for bowlers since its inception in the world game in 2001 as an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council (ICC); Rashid Khan, the poster boy of an art that in this country we struggle to produce. Or more honestly, it cannot be produced.
Rashid Khan celebrates after taking the wicket from Scotsman Brad Wheal (R)
Using his height in quick, boisterous action up to the crease, Ur Rahman can land the ball with great precision on all three trunnions from different angles and spin it in both directions.
This was a trickster in his pomp; One more time to show, no matter how many Deontay Wilder-type blows this brave nation soaks up on or off the field, they just find a way to beat the score.
His second ball drifted off the mid-stump line to head for Captain Kyle Coetzer’s pad on the leg stump and fire the lbw hitter. No possibility.
His third ball, again a leg twist to restrict opposition to the shorter limit, new batter Calum MacLeod did the exact same thing. MacLeod’s weak push forward wasn’t before the ball hit the platform. Unnerving
His sixth ball, a faster carrom ball, engulfed Richie Berrington in front of the grounds. Referee Kumar Dharmasena handed it over, Berrington opted for a review. The DRS confirmed that the ball had the stump shaved. Foreseeable.
The fact that those three wickets in a single switch (he took five times 20 in the end) deflated Scotland’s hopes reflected the brilliance of Ur Rahman and Afghanistan’s progress as a cricket nation.
His spin twin, Khan, also got in on the spot, erasing the second half of the batting lineup with a mix of quick orthodox leg spin and googlies to take four wickets for a massive 130-run win.
Najibullah Zadran dives to make his ground while Matthew Cross of Scotland removes the bail
It was hope amid the difficulties in the team’s first game since the heartbreaking events of August. Draped in national flags and with black, red and green face paint, this meant much more than a World Cup match for Afghan fans at the stadium in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.
The strange tear that streamed through the eyes of players and fans alike only showed a microcosm of the bigger picture.
Having even been able to play this opening match against an impressive Scottish side, undefeated in three group stage matches, seemed very rare just eight weeks ago.
Cricket was off the agenda, survival was a huge issue. The Taliban had completed their takeover of the country in the capital Kabul on August 15, leaving havoc in their wake.
Dozens of civilian lives had been irretrievably changed, families displaced and many people desperately seeking refuge in any host country.
The future of cricket in a country led by terrorist groups was uncertain. The ICC will meet next month to discuss the nation’s full probationary status – something they have fought for a decade – over comments from the Taliban suggesting that women’s cricket would be cruelly illegal.
Australia is also threatening to drop a one-off test match against the men’s team over these comments as well.
Playing in a Twenty20 World Cup in October in the United Arab Emirates? Forget it.
Mujeeb Ur Rahman of Afghanistan poses after being named Man of the Match
That’s why when starters Hazratullah Zazai and Mohammad Shahzad arrived in the area after winning the draw, there was really no fear. How could there be after all this nation has been through?
Being here was an achievement in itself. Being here was a partial anecdote for his fans because of the recent trauma.
Michael Leask’s first ball was greeted with a big six into Shahzad’s square leg to set up a marker.
Both he and Zazai got off to a good start, reaching 50 in six overs.
After their dismissals, Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Najibullah Zadran slowly teamed up to build another crucial partnership.
If there was a five-second clip based on the recap, Gurbaz step up.
Medium-paced Josh Davey landed the ball on a good-length leg stump. Gurbaz produced an extraordinary helicopter shot with wrists that infused the elasticity of the gum as he whipped the bat in a skyward motion towards the deep square leg.
Unsurprisingly, the ball landed high in the stands, although he wasn’t entirely sure where; a synopsis of Afghanistan cricket right now.
Chasing 191, a pair of reverse sweeps by Munsey pushed the limits and the Scots to 27 for 0 after three overs. Kind of an ideal start. That was until the Ur Rahman and Rashid program was developed.
One can expect international cricket to have a future in a talent-rich country that has faced far more adversity than its share.
There is still a lot of life in the cricket wounded animal.