Afghanistan had more than 37.1 overs to chase the 292-run target and get their net run rate above Sri Lanka to qualify for the Super 4 stage of Asia Cup 2023. But they didn’t know. A Test playing nation with heavy backroom staff had no idea about basic net run rate calculations. “We were never communicated those calculations,” said Afghanistan head coach Jonathan Trott in the post-match press conference after his side bowed out of the tournament with a 2-run loss in the Group B match in Lahore on Tuesday. “
“All we were communicated was we needed to win in 37.1 overs. We weren’t told what the overs in which we could get 295 or 297. (That we could win in) 38.1 overs was never communicated to us,” the former England batter added.
What exactly happened in the latter half of Afghanistan vs Sri Lanka match?
After Sri Lanka put 291 on the board, there was only one way Afghanistan could reach the Super 4 stage. That is if they chased the required runs within 37.1 overs. But in cricket, the target is not absolute. Runs scored beyond that are calculated in the individual batter’s score as well as the team’s total. In simple words, irrespective of the 292-run target, if Afghanistan hit a six when they were at 289, their total would have been calculated as 295 and not 292. They would have still won the match but their net run rate would have judged on the final score. By this, the highest they could have reached was 297 (by hitting a six when scores were level). This would have given them time till 38.1 overs – six deliveries extra.
How Afghanistan’s miscalculations hurt them
Here’s how Afghanistan could have given themselves extra deliveries. If they scored 293 after 37.2 overs, 294 after 37.3, 295 after 37.5, 296 after 38 overs, or 297 after 38.1, they would have still qualified for the Super 4 stage.
So When Mujeeb Ur Rahman got the strike with 3 needed off 1 ball, all he needed to do was get a single to bring Rashid Khan back on strike. The all-rounder, who was batting on 27 off 16, just needed to hit a four within the next two deliveries or hit a six within the next five balls.
But because none of the Afghanistan players and their support staff had any clue about this, Mujeeb went for the big shot, thinking he had to score 3 off 1, and ended up providing a simple catch to long on. The reaction of Rashid, the non-striker, was a clear giveaway. He was crestfallen, on his knees, eyes moist.
Afghanistan, however, were still in it. Having no clue that they could still qualify, No.11 Fazalhaq Farooqi blocked a full toss in the next delivery. Perhaps, he wanted to bat out the five ball of off-spinner Dhananjaya de Silva to make sure Rashid could at least win them the match in the next over. But that didn’t happen. He was out LBW in the fourth ball of the over and Sri Lanka got out of jail, winning the match by two runs and qualifying to the net stage as table toppers of Group B which also has Bangladesh.
“I don’t think there’s one reason we lost the game,” Trott said. “There are areas of the game we could have done better (in) and that goes for today’s game and the one against Bangladesh. We got some things horribly wrong in a few areas and it’s cost us. It’d be nice if we’d bowled them out a bit cheaper. But it wasn’t to be.”
Whose fault was it?
While it is true that the match referee should have communicated all the scenarios to Afghanistan, their support staff, analysts in particular, have to take the lion’s share of the blame. Even complex DLS calculations are taken care of by the team’s analyst. Compared to that, net run rate calculations are fairly easy and should have been taken care of.