Neither Afghanistan nor Scotland will win the 2015 Cricket World Cup and are very unlikely to qualify for the quarter-finals, but when they clashed in Dunedin for their third games of the tournament in Pool A, one nation was hopeful of celebrating an inaugural victory in a World Cup competition.
Prior to this meeting between two of crickets minnow nations, Scotland had failed to score more than 200 runs in two previous innings and had slumped to heavy defeats against both New Zealand and England whereas Afghanistan were beaten by more than 100 runs when facing Bangladesh but had troubled Sri Lanka when ensuring that their opponents had required 48 overs to overtake their first innings score of 232.
Scotland batted first in Dunedin but amassed a paltry 210 runs in the full 50 overs with only Matt Machan and Majid Haq managing to score more than 30. Yet it was still the highest total accumulated by the Scottish team in World Cup history surpassing the 186 scored against South Africa in 2007.
Yet while international cricket barely registers any real interest back in Scotland, it is a different story in war-torn Afghanistan where big screens have been erected in town squares for local inhabitants to watch the tournament and where unofficial cease-fires have reported to have been declared by opposing factions.
Now in their first ever World Cup tournament, the opportunity of securing a first victory was presented as they faced a very modest Scotland first innings total. However, despite an opening partnership of 42 in reply, Afghanistan then slumped to 97-7 before Samiullah Shenwari rescued the innings by compiling 96 runs ably supported Javed Ahmadi scoring 51.
There was still much work required when Shenwari was dismissed with just one wicket remaining and the score still 19 runs short of the required winning total, but victory was sealed when Shapoor Zadran despatched the third ball of the final over to the boundary and thus completing a one wicket success.
It may have been a cricket match short on quality but as the drama enfolded, there was a sense that both teams were aiming for that elusive World Cup victory in the knowledge that their chances of winning another game are extremely remote.
Scotland have now lost 11 successive games in ICC World Cup tournaments and seem destined to finish without a point in the 2015 renewal, but Afghanistan now face the daunting prospect of facing an Australian team at the WACA ground in Perth where they could attract the support of many neutral cricket fans.
Back home in Afghanistan, the prospect of another cessation in any violence is likely on March 4th, when every available television and large screen will probably be transmitting coverage of an emerging national cricket team trying to beat the legendary Australians.
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