Scotland sent into a spin by Mujeeb magic as Afghanistan crush Kyle Coetzer’s side by 130 runs

If you were in search of a country known to produce the best watches, Switzerland would be pointed to.

Fast cars? Probably Italy. Mystery spin bowlers? Afghanistan, mostly definitely. The latter nation would also be in contention for the most stubborn in the face of adversity, too.

Scotland had motored to 27 without loss after three overs in pursuit of the opposition’s sizeable 190.

Afghanistan players celebrate their win against Scotland during the Cricket Twenty20 World Cup match in Sharjah, UAE

The run chase was going to plan, George Munsey set on 17 off 12. But you see, when having witnessed your nation overtaken by a terrorist group, civilians perishing, there is not much on a cricket field that can faze you.

The tall, wiry figure of mystery spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman had arrived to the popping crease for the fourth over.

Here was cricket’s version of a magician ready with a box of tricks in front of a bewildered audience; they have paid to witness magic, but still wear faces of shock when such trickiness unfolds.

Afghanistan has been a hotbed of spin bowlers since their 2001 inception into the world game as an International Cricket Council (ICC) affiliate member; Rashid Khan the poster boy of an art we in this country struggle to produce. Or more truthfully, can’t produce.

Rashid Khan celebrates after taking the wicket of Scotland's Brad Wheal (R)

Rashid Khan celebrates after taking the wicket of Scotland’s Brad Wheal (R)

Using his height in a quick, bustling action to the crease, Ur Rahman is able to land the ball with great accuracy at all three stumps from different angles and turn it in both directions.

This was a trickster in their pomp; an over to show no matter how many Deontay Wilder-like punches this brave nation absorbs on or off the field, they just find a way to beat the count.

His second-ball googly fizzed off a middle-stump line to head towards captain Kyle Coetzer’s pad on leg stump and dismiss the batter lbw. No chance.

His third ball — again, a googly spinning towards leg to restrict the opposition to the shorter boundary — to new batter Calum MacLeod did exactly the same. MacLeod’s limp prod forward was not before the ball struck pad. Unnerving.

His sixth ball, a quicker carrom ball, wrapped Richie Berrington in front of the wickets. Umpire Kumar Dharmasena gave it out, Berrington opted for a review. The DRS confirmed the ball had shaved leg stump. Predictable.

That those three wickets in a single over — he took five for 20 by the end — deflated Scotland’s hopes reflected Ur Rahman’s brilliance and Afghanistan’s progress as a cricketing nation.

His spin twin Khan got in on the act too, wiping away the latter half of the batting line-up with a mixture of quick orthodox leg-spin and googlies to take four wickets and wrap up a huge 130-run victory.

Najibullah Zadran dives to make their ground as Matthew Cross of Scotland removes the bails

Najibullah Zadran dives to make their ground as Matthew Cross of Scotland removes the bails

It was hope amid hardship in the team’s first match since August’s harrowing events. Draped in national flags and wearing black, red and green face paint, this meant so much more than a World Cup match to Afghan supporters in the Sharjah stadium, UAE.

The odd tear residing across the eyes of players and fans alike only told a microcosm of the wider picture.

To have been able to even play this opening match against an impressive Scotland side — unbeaten in three group stage matches — looked very slim indeed just eight weeks ago.

Cricket was off the agenda, survival very much to the fore. The Taliban had completed its takeover of the country in capital city Kabul on August 15, leaving havoc in their wake.

Dozens of civilian lives had irretrievably changed, families displaced and many desperately seeking refuge in any country that would take them in.

The future of cricket in a terrorist group-led country was uncertain full stop. The ICC are meeting next month to discuss the nation’s full Test status — something they have fought over a decade for — over Taliban comments suggesting that women’s cricket would be cruelly outlawed.

Australia are threatening to abandon a one-off Test match against the men’s side over these comments, too.

Playing in a Twenty20 World Cup in October in the UAE? Forget it.

Mujeeb Ur Rahman of Afghanistan poses after being named Player of the Match

Mujeeb Ur Rahman of Afghanistan poses after being named Player of the Match 

It is why when openers Hazratullah Zazai and Mohammad Shahzad arrived at the crease after winning the toss, there truly was no fear. How could there be after all this nation has been through?

Being here was an achievement in itself. Being here was a partial anecdote to their fans for the recent trauma.

Off-spinner Michael Leask’s first ball was greeted for a big six towards square leg by Shahzad to lay down a marker.

Both he and Zazai got the side off to a brisk start, reaching 50 within six overs.

After their dismissals, Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Najibullah Zadran slowly banded together to build another crucial partnership.

If there were to be a five-second clip as per summary, step forward Gurbaz.

Medium-pacer Josh Davey landed the ball on a good length targeting leg stump. Gurbaz pulled out an extraordinary helicopter shot with wrists imbuing the elasticity of gum as he whipped the bat in a skywards motion towards deep square leg.

 The ball predictably landed high in the stands, though not completely sure where; a synopsis of Afghanistan cricket right now.

Chasing 191, a couple of Munsey reverse sweeps brought boundaries and the Scots to 27 for 0 after three overs. An ideal start of sorts. That was until the Ur Rahman and Rashid show unfolded.

One can hope international cricket has a future in a richly-talented country that has faced far more than its fair share of adversity.

There is still plenty of life in cricket’s wounded animal.