AFGHANISTAN swept past the Netherlands by seven wickets on Friday (3) to boost their chances of reaching the World Cup semi-finals.
Chasing 180 to win, Afghanistan reached their target with 111 balls to spare to clinch a fourth win at the tournament to add to victories over defending champions England, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
They now have eight points, the same as Australia and New Zealand, who currently occupy two of the semi-final qualifying places.
Undefeated India have already made sure of a last-four spot with South Africa almost certain to join them.
“We are still dreaming and we are still trying our best to make the semi-final. That would be such a big achievement for our country and for me,” said Afghanistan skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi.
“A message to our country back home. We know that people are struggling, we are with them. I dedicate this win to them.”
Next up for Afghanistan on Tuesday (7) is a potential grudge match against five-time champions Australia.
In January, Australia controversially cancelled a series against Afghanistan in protest, they claimed, at the Taliban’s treatment of women.
Rahmat Shah hit his third successive half-century for Afghanistan while Hashmatullah made an undefeated 56, also his third fifty in a row.
Rahmat had scored 77 against Pakistan and 62 in the win over Sri Lanka.
On Friday, he hit a 54-ball 52 with eight fours and shared a 74-run third wicket partnership with Hashmatullah after openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz (10) and Ibrahim Zadran (20) had departed cheaply.
Rahmat fell, caught and bowled by Saqib Zulfiqar with 129 on the board and his team well set for victory.
Hashmatullah’s 56 came off 64 balls and followed his 80 against India and 58 in the match with Sri Lanka.
“When I’m bowling, I’m just focusing on my line and lengths and bowling as many dot balls as I can. That makes the batsmen rush and my consistency helps me be successful,” said veteran Afghanistan off-spinner Mohammad Nabi, who was man-of-the-match for his 3-28.
“I am happy with how my plans worked today. I’m still working on my fitness, my body is working fine and I still love playing for Afghanistan.”
Earlier, Afghanistan restricted error-plagued Netherlands to 179 all out.
The Netherlands, who still harboured a slim hope of squeezing into the semi-finals, won the toss and opted to bat but were undone by seeing four of their batsmen run-out.
They recovered from seeing 39-year-old opener Wesley Barresi dismissed by spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman in the first over.
Max O’Dowd and Colin Ackermann put on 70 for the second wicket when a series of calamities put them on the back foot.
O’Dowd was on 42 when he was beaten by a direct hit by Azmatullah Omarzai from fine leg.
With the score on 92-2, Ackermann (29) failed to make his ground when Ikram Alikhil whipped off the bails from a smart throw by Rashid Khan.
On the next delivery, skipper Scott Edwards swept, lost sight of the ball and as he wandered aimlessly out of his crease Alikhil ran him out without scoring.
Nabi and teenage wrist spinner Noor Ahmad then sent back Bas de Leede and Saqib Zulfiqar with Logan van Beek dismissed thanks to a smart stumping by wicketkeeper Alikhil.
Sybrand Engelbrecht had made 58 with six fours when he became the fourth run-out of the innings, failing to beat Nabi’s throw from midwicket.
That left the Dutch on 152-8 before they went on to be bowled out after 46.3 overs.
“The run-outs were hard to come back from,” admitted Edwards.
“They have quality spinners through the middle and we didn’t have our top order batters to face them.”