Emotion and exuberance feeds Afghanistan's cricket and it makes for great narratives. In due course, perhaps even by the end of this World Cup, they'll also come to appreciate another virtue for success: composure. At the end of an error-strewn match in Cardiff, Gulbadin Naib and Co. were left to rue a massive missed opportunity of registering their second win in a World Cup - their first against a full member. If only they'd forced themselves to stay patient.
Ahead of the game, Naib acknowledged that an embattled Sri Lanka were ripe for the taking, even referencing their batting struggles over the last two years. He even won a crucial toss on a green top and under overcast skies, but his bowlers came out hoping to blast opposition out of the game and end up conceding the toss advantage.
In the second innings, Afghanistan never looked at ease to chase the total as they kept on losing wickets at regular intervals and eventually ended up losing the game. "The wicket was suitable for the seamers, but we did not bowl in the right areas, especially in the start of the innings," Naib rued after the defeat on Tuesday (June 4). "I think the bowlers didn't take responsibility at the start of the day, so maybe we missed something."
It took the calming influence of Mohammad Nabi (4 for 3), a finger spinner, to bring Afghanistan back on this surface. Nabi may lack the mystery of Rashid Khan but more than makes up with his subtlety in speed variations and angles. He used his scrambled seam arm-ball to great effect, invoking all of Sri Lanka's batting demons at once with his control. Hamid himself reaped dividends of curbing the enthusiasm when he produced an exhilarating spell in tandem with Nabi to trigger Sri Lanka's collapse. From 144 for 1, Sri Lanka lost their last nine wickets for 57 runs to be bowled out for 201.
"We got it right in the middle to bowl them for 200 something, but still they scored a lot for this kind of surface. It  was too much. But it's good, especially Nabi and Hamid, how they bowled, showed what we missed something in the start," Naib added.
Keep calm on the wicket
Unfortunately, Afghanistan didn't learn their lessons mid-match. The chase followed a similar template. Hazratullah Zazai got his front leg out of the way and hit balls across a full arc from deep point to square leg. But after nearly falling into the short ball trap, he attempted another pull shot and was caught at the fine-leg boundary. Where the rest of the line-up barely got their eye in on a tricky surface, Zazai got himself in with a 30 off 25 and then got himself out. Naib and Najibullah Zadran showed the way with a composed 64-run stand but Afghanistan were always one good ball away from another collapse.
"I kept saying one thing to my guys: just play straight and keep calm on the wicket. Take your time. But maybe they struggled a lot on this kind of surface," was Naib's honest confession.
Yes, we lost a lot of wickets at the start. Me and Najib decided to control ourselves and keep calm at the wicket. We just wanted to play straight and not go [chasing] for the runs. They were targetting us because they need wickets. But they bowled really well in one line and credit goes to them on this kind of surface. Especially when you face these kind of teams, experience teams, they [have] played a lot of cricket, especially in England, New Zealand. They face these kind of wickets a lot. Maybe where we miss something [experience] there."