Kabul – Afghans rallied behind their defeated national cricket team Thursday after Asghar Stanikzai’s side went down fighting at the World Twenty20 in Delhi, crashing out of the tournament despite giving England a scare.
The third straight loss came despite Afghanistan’s slow bowlers making England sweat on Wednesday, reducing them to 85 for seven only to have their batting let them down, falling just 15 runs short of victory.
“We lack experience, we are an inexperienced side. We played very well against England,” Aziz Gharwal, a cricket board official, told AFP.
“We restricted England to a decent total, but our batting has let us down.
“I think the more we play against top teams, the more we will gain experience from them,” he said.
The result ruled Afghanistan out of the hunt for a semi-final spot after they also lost to Sri Lanka and South Africa in the Super 10 stage, though they will still play against the West Indies on March 27.
Afghanistan had beaten Zimbabwe comprehensively in the qualifiers in mid-March to storm into the Super 10s, a remarkable feat for the only non-Test team left in the tournament — a team who have to play all their matches away from their war-torn home.
Afghan fans on social media took the loss in their stride.
In 2012 England defeated Afghanistan by 116 runs. “Yesterday, we got beaten by 15 runs. Big improvements,” said fan Naimatullah Khan on Facebook.
“Don’t worry blue tigers you have nothing to lose, you guys have already made a place in our hearts,” wrote Mukhtar Ahmad.
“Great match, best game, it was a team effort, you did a commendable job… we are proud of you,” added Rahim Gul Sarwan.
Since defying the odds to compete in the 2010 World T20 in England, Afghanistan has managed to qualify for all the major international tournaments, including last year’s 50-over World Cup.
Cricket was banned during Taliban rule but has boomed since.
The game is now played on any piece of open ground, ranging from scruffy city parks to rural roads, with boys often using discarded pieces of wood for bats and wickets.