While the Afghan players rushed to hug and celebrate with teammates and fans after last-in-line batsman Shapoor Zadran stroked the winning runs in the last-over, one-wicket victory — the closest margin in terms of wickets at the World Cup since 2007 — dejected Scotland players slowly left the field Thursday after being deprived of their first win in the marquee event.
Samuillah Shenwari scored 96 runs to bat Afghanistan close to victory as it chased Scotland's 210 in Dunedin, New Zealand. But Shenwari was out with 19 runs still needed, 19 balls remaining and one wicket standing.
The last-wicket pair of Hamid Hassan (15 not out) and Shapoor (12 not out) held their nerve to complete the historic win.
"We lost five wickets early and I had the responsibility to stay there till the end," Shenwari said of Afghanistan's batting collapse when it scored only 12 runs for the loss of the five wickets. "It was a poor shot to get out, but I was trying to get a six. Good win for us in the tournament and we are looking forward to win more."
Shenwari, who has played on the team for six years, says young Afghans will now see cricket as a way to rise above the trials of daily life in the war-affected country. Some players on the Afghanistan team learned to play cricket in Pakistan refugee camps during exile from their homeland. As recently as 2008, the team was playing in the lowest tier of international cricket.
As the team has improved and gained momentum, so has the following.
In terms of cricket, "I think there was nothing before," Shenwari said. "You can look 10 or eight years ago, there was nothing in Afghanistan. But now you can see the streets, school, everything you go, it's just cricket and cricket, so maybe in next 10 years maybe we can do (more)."
In the second match Thursday, unbeaten centuries from Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara guided Sri Lanka to 332-1, setting up a 92-run win over Bangladesh at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Dilshan made the most of an early fielding error to post 161, his third World Cup century, while Sangakkara marked his 400th one-day international by scoring 105 off 76 balls in a 210-run partnership after Sri Lanka won the toss. Lasith Malinga (3-35) used his express pace to bowl Tamim Iqbal for a duck with just the second ball of the chase and Sri Lanka never appeared to be in danger as Bangladesh capitulated for 240.
On Friday, the West Indies, coming off a 73-run win over Zimbabwe when Chris Gayle hit a World Cup-record innings of 215, plays a team coming off a big loss, South Africa. The South Africans, outclassed by defending champion India in a 130-run loss on Sunday, prepared for the tournament with lopsided series wins at home against the West Indies.
"They beat us badly in their hometown," Gayle said. "We are on neutral grounds now, so hopefully we can get things going for us."
South Africa's squad included captain A.B. de Villiers and Hashim Amla, two of the leading batsmen in the one-day international format, and a pace battery led by Dale Steyn.
The loss to India followed an opening win over Zimbabwe for the South Africans. The West Indies squad is moving in the other direction, losing to tier-two Ireland by four wickets in its moment before rebounding with big wins over Pakistan and Zimbabwe.
"Nothing has changed for our approach except our confidence might have taken a bit of a slip in the last game," de Villiers said. "It's maybe a good thing for us to make sure we keep our feet on the ground. We've got only upward to go now otherwise we're going to stumble out of this tournament."
Meanwhile, the International Cricket Council announced that former New Zealand captain Martin Crowe, a cousin of actor Russell Crowe, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame during Saturday's match between co-hosts New Zealand and Australia at Auckland.