Afghanistan captain Hashmatullah Shahidi attributed his side’s World Cup win over the Netherlands on Friday to “struggling with refugees” at home and insisted he was still “dreaming” of reaching the semi-finals. Afghanistan swept to victory by seven wickets with 111 balls to spare to record a fourth victory at the tournament after already shocking defending champions England, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. With two group games remaining, they have eight points, the same as Australia and New Zealand although their rivals have better clean-run rates.
Undefeated India are assured of a semi-final place and South Africa are almost certain to join them.
After the victory, Hashmatullah turned his thoughts to the plight of his comrades on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
More than 165,000 Afghans have fled Pakistan in the month since Islamabad issued an ultimatum to 1.7 million people to leave or face arrest and deportation.
“A message to our country back home. We know that many of the refugees are struggling. We are watching the videos and we are sad for them,” said 28-year-old Hashmatullah.
“We are with them in these difficult times and I want to dedicate this victory to those who are in pain, and to everyone back home.”
Hashmatullah said he also has private reasons for pushing towards the final four.
“I lost my mother three months ago and my family is in a lot of pain,” he said.
“We are still dreaming and we are still trying our best to reach the semi-final. It would be such a great achievement for our country and for me.”
Afghanistan coach Jonathan Trott said he admired his players for being in touch with the many problems facing their country.
– ‘contact with people’ –
“I think the players are used to everything that’s going on at home, whether it’s the earthquake and other things,” said the former England batsman.
“I think they are enjoying the joy they are bringing to the people of Afghanistan and the smiles on their faces right now in the dressing room, but also the smiles that are driving everyone else away.
“That’s the great thing about sport and being able to connect with people further afield than just here in the stadium or in this country, but also back home.”
Before this year, Afghanistan had only won one match at the World Cup and that was against Scotland on their debut in 2015.
Four years ago, in the United Kingdom, they lost all nine games they played.
On Friday, set on 180 to win, Rahmat Shah (52) hit his third consecutive half-century while Hashmatullah made an unbeaten 56, his third crucial innings in a row.
Mohammad Nabi was man of the match off the spinner for his 3-28.
“Mohammad Nabi is a special player. He is so talented and loves to take responsibility with the ball like he did today,” said Hashmatullah.
Next up for Afghanistan on Tuesday is a potential match against five-time champions Australia.
In January, Australia controversially canceled a series against Afghanistan to protest, they claimed, the Taliban’s treatment of women.
“We have a good team unity. We are very united and we always play for the team and win for the team,” said Hashmatullah.
The Netherlands, which has stunned South Africa and Bangladesh at the tournament, was canceled on Friday by four in a row.
“It was difficult to come back from them, we managed to get a good total. They have quality spinners through the middle and we didn’t have our top-order batsmen to face them,” said skipper Scott Edwards.
“We have batted well first, defending scores. We thought if we scored 280 we would be well in the game.”
(Other than the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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