Afghanistan 'future's bright' after memorable World Cup

AHMEDABAD, India: Afghanistan coach Jonathan Trott on Friday said the "future is bright" for his team after enjoying their most successful World Cup.

Afghanistan's campaign finished in a five-wicket loss to South Africa which ended their slim hopes of making the semi-finals.

Needing to win the game by a mammoth 438 runs to stay in contention, Afghanistan were 244 all out with Azmatullah Omarzai top scoring on 97 before the Proteas, already assured of a semi-final place, chased down the target with 15 balls to spare.

But the team, led by Hashmatullah Shahidi, had definite highs in the tournament with two of their four wins coming against defending champions England and former winners Pakistan.

"I had confidence in the players, but sometimes until somebody does it or they do it themselves, you're never quite sure," Trott, a former England batsman, told reporters.

"I said numerous times before the tournament that we just need to win a couple of games to get that belief and the buzz around the side...We've won games and found ways to win games."

Known for their world class spin attack including Rashid Khan, who claimed a team-best 11 wickets, Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Afghanistan saw their batsmen make an impact as well.

Ibrahim Zadran became the first Afghan to hit a World Cup century albeit in the heartbreaking defeat against Australia.

Zadran ended the tournament as his side's top scorer with 376 runs and an average of 47. That is enough to give him a spot in the current top 10 of run-makers at this World Cup, a list dominated by players from India, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

"Normally, with the side, you'd say bowling would be the strength," said Trott.

"But to be able to knock off targets in pretty comfortable and responsible fashion shows that we're not sort of one way inclined to win cricket games."

Teenage wrist spinner Noor Ahmad and fast bowler Naveen-ul-Haq also made their presence felt in the team.

"There's certainly a bigger pool than in the past to be able to select from, or certainly experienced players or well-known names to be able to call upon, like Naveen coming in and playing ODI cricket," said Trott.

"The future's bright, it's our job as a side and us as management coaches to make sure we nurture that and make sure that we're going in the right direction."

Afghanistan also defeated former champions Sri Lanka and the Netherlands at the tournament but their biggest celebration came with the Pakistan triumph.

Many of the Afghanistan players learnt their cricket in refugee camps in Pakistan and to beat them was a huge achievement especially at a time of strained political relations between the two neighbours.

Until this World Cup, Afghanistan had only won one match across two editions. In 2019, they lost all nine games they played.

"There have been tough, testing times for sure, but these four wins in this World Cup, the joy on their faces beating Pakistan for the first time, that makes everything worthwhile," said Trott.

"So that's really a moment I won't forget along with a lot of the other guys as well." --AFP

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