Former Indian Test opener Aakash Chopra reckons if Afghanistan had not lost their first match to Bangladesh, they would have been serious contenders for the semi-finals in the ongoing World Cup 2023. Afghanistan lost their opening game against the Tigers after they could only manage 156 runs on the board.
However, Afghanistan were able to stun the defending champions England by 69 runs at the MA Chidambaram Stadium as their spinners did a fine job. Subsequently, they shocked Pakistan by eight wickets and defeated Sri Lanka by seven wickets at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Pune on Monday.
The Hashmatullah Shahidi-led team was able to skittle out Sri Lanka for 241 runs after Fazalhaq Farooqi returned with impressive figures of 4-34. Subsequently, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, and Azmatullah Omarzai all scored fifties in the run-chase.
With this win, Afghanistan climbed to fifth position in the points table with three victories in six games. Thus, the Giant Killers have kept their semifinal hopes alive.
Aakash Chopra said on his YouTube Channel, “Afghanistan have won their third game. They first defeated England, then made Pakistan lick dust and now they have said tata bye-bye to Sri Lanka.”
The former India opener added: “They are not winning matches, they are dominating and winning convincingly. If they had not lost their first match to Bangladesh, they would have been serious contenders for the semi-final race.”
The renowned commentator added that Afghanistan is not over-reliant on their spinners in the ongoing showpiece.
“Afghanistan – a team on the rise. We had discussed pre-tournament as well that you shouldn’t take Afghanistan lightly, that they are a good team who have good spinners and if they start scoring runs in batting, it would be difficult to beat this team. Interestingly enough, they are not winning based on spin.”
Meanwhile, Farooqi accounted for Dimuth Karunaratne, Charith Asalanka, Angelo Mathews, and Maheesh Theekshana in his fine spell and Chopra showered praise on the pacer.
“We had discussed yesterday that the Pune pitch has help for pacers. Keeping that in mind, the team played Fazalhaq Farooqi in place of Noor Ahmad. Farooqi picked up four wickets and all four players he dismissed had gotten off to starts. Whoever made runs was made to lick dust by him.”
Afghanistan will next take on the Netherlands at the Bharat Ratna Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ekana Cricket Stadium, Lucknow on Friday.