Afghanistan became the first country from Group B to qualify for the Super-4 stage of the 2022 Asia Cup, UAE. With all the group stage matches in both the groups now finished, Afghanistan now joins India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, who will lock horns with each other in a round robin format to make it to the final. All teams at this stage are ranked higher than Afghanistan (#10), with heavyweights India (#1) and Pakistan (#3) in the top 3. However, this should not deter the nation as they qualified by defeating Sri Lanka (#8) and Bangladesh (#9), both of which are higher ranked than them, in group B.

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Here’s a look at their journey so far:

Afghanistan vs Sri Lanka: Afghanistan won by 8 wickets

Afghanistan defeated Sri Lanka in the first match of the 2022 Asia Cup in Dubai, setting the tone early for the competition. The Sri Lankan team was smashed with the Afghans chasing down 106 in just 11 overs. 

Afghanistan’s campaign got off to a great start thanks to Fazalhaq Farooqi. In just the 4th ball of the over, Farooqi trapped Kusal Mendis for LBW. The umpire gave not out but had to change the decision after the Afghans reviewed. Replays showed that the judgement indeed need to be overturned. Farooqi got his second off the very next ball for Sri Lanka by dismissing Charith Asalanka.  

In the next over, a slightly controversial decision saw Pathum Nissanka walk back to the pavilion after the third umpire upheld the onfield call to rule him caught behind. All in all, Sri Lanka was reduced for 5/3 and then Farooqi delivered a maiden over in the powerplay.  

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After a 20-run over, Sri Lanka did manage to conclude the powerplay strongly. The only Sri Lankan who was able to score runs was Bhanuka Rajapaksa. He and Danushka Gunathilaka formed a helpful partnership that assisted Sri Lanka in bouncing back from those initial blows. Following the wickets taken by Mujeeb ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi in the middle overs, Sri Lanka was eventually dismissed for 105 runs in 19.4 overs.

Afghanistan then again bossed the second innings’ powerplay, thanks to debutant Rahmanullah Gurbaz who took on Matheesha Pathirana to fetch 16 runs in the third over. Afghanistan raced to 41 for no loss in just four overs but they than doubled that tally in the next two overs. All in all, Afghanistan finished the powerplay with 83 runs on the board.

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Afghanistan simply needed 23 more runs, and there were plenty of overs left. With a couple more boundaries, Ibrahim Zadran reduced the margin even further before being forced to return to the pavilion due to an unfortunate run out. Hazratullah Zazai, though, guided his team to victory as Afghanistan finished the task with 59 balls remaining.

Afghanistan vs Bangladesh: Afghanistan won by 7 wickets

Afghanistan won a thrilling chase against Bangladesh in Sharjah to become the first side to advance to the Super 4 round of the Asia Cup. Spinners Mujeeb ur Rahman and Rashid Khan each took three wickets to bring Bangladesh to 89 for 6 in the 16th over, paving the way for the triumph.

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Rahman started the powerplay brilliantly, taking a wicket each in his first three overs. He took the wickets of Mohammad Naim and Anamul Haque in his first two overs. In the final over of the powerplay, Shakib Al Hasan attempted to counterattack by hitting back-to-back fours, but he lost his wicket to an Ur Rahman carrom ball. Bangladesh finished the powerplay with 28/3.

It was then Rashid Khan’s turn to dismantle Bangladesh’s middle order. His first scalp was Mushfiqur Rahim. Khan used a googly to catch him lbw in just two balls. Before Rashid struck again, Afif Hossain and Mahmudullah added 25 runs at a run a ball in an effort to stabilise the innings. It was then Mosaddek spearheaded a comeback to give Bangladesh a chance, hitting Bangladesh’s first six in the game’s 12th over. It was also luck that helped as it was a catch by Azmatullah Omarzai, who after completing the catch threw the ball over to Rashid Khan as he ran towards the boundary. However, replays showed Omarzai’s foot just brushing the boundary cushion when he was still in possession of the ball. For the seventh wicket, Mosaddek and Mahedi Hasan combined for 38 runs in 24 balls, giving Bangladesh a total of 127 for 7.

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Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Hazratullah Zazai, Afghanistan’s openers, attempted to attack but were unsuccessful on this Sharjah pitch, unlike against Sri Lanka. Gurbaz was lucky in the third over when Mahmudullah put down a catch off Shakib Al Hasan. Gurbaz again charged at Shakib in the fifth over, but couldn’t connect and Rahman completed the stumping.

Although Hazratullah managed to hit a few boundaries, he had trouble with timing and was bowled by Mosaddek for 23 from 26 balls. Nabi moved up to No. 4, but he only managed to get 8 out of 9 before Mohammad Saifuddin had him sent out by ball.

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On this pitch, Bangladesh seemed to be the favourites with 63 needed off the final six overs, but Najibullah Zadran’s six-hitting turned the tide of the match. Before Zadran’s heroics, Ibrahim Zadran first relieved the pressure with back-to-back fours off Taskin Ahmed. He sent Mustafizur over deep midwicket and long off for two additional sixes after swatting Mahedi over deep midwicket. The equation was reduced to 26 off 18 balls as a result.

After Ibrahim hit the opening ball of Saifuddin’s 18th over for a four, Najibullah followed up with one more four and two sixes to finish the over with 22 runs. Afghanistan needed just three out of ten balls remaining and then Najibullah Zadran finished off with a six, to give Afghans their entry into the Super-4.