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Cricket news - Hamid Hassan's Headingley heartbreak

Hamid Hassan had to emotionally watch on from the dugout as Afghanistan let another match, well within their grasp, slip away at the end

The second innings of the Pakistan game had begun on a cheerful note for Afghanistan's inspirational fast bowler Hamid Hassan. His teammates gave him a guard of honour as he stepped on to the field for the final time in a One-Day International, having announced his decision to quit the format ahead of the game. He nearly struck with his first ball as a back-of-a-length delivery climbed steeply on Imam-ul-Haq, just evading his gloves on the way to the wicket-keeper.

Hassan, who clearly enjoyed producing a magic ball first up, even brandished a scared-by-a-ghost expression at Imam before breaking into a toothy grin. On evidence of just the first ball, the Pakistan game could have been his golden moment, a fitting final dose of inspiration to an embattled Afghanistan squad before hanging up his boots. Instead, it felt as if every one of his final game dreams was run over by a road roller, which then backed up and ran over them for a second time.

For midway through his second over, Hamid's hamstring gave away. He completed the over before realising he could no longer continue and walked off the field, for the last time in the Afghanistan ODI blue. "It wasn't my wish to go like this to be honest," he said, having hobbled his way to the Open Media session at the end of the game. "I was very, very keen and very happy. I was playing my last ODI and was in very good mood. I played [bowled] a very good first over with pace. I was ready to go, but suddenly I don't know what happened, second over my hamstring was totally like gone. I felt like something was broken inside [the] hamstring. I couldn't walk.

"Maybe [I pushed myself too much]... I don't know. I was very excited. As I said I was ready to go and I don't know... Allah knows everything better, because he might have written something else in my destiny... 'that you'll bowl two overs and then you have to say bye bye to cricket.'"

Hamid's injury hampered Afghanistan's defence of 227 with captain Gulbadin Naib having to bowl the full quota of 10 overs. Rahmat Shah, who pulled up with a sore shoulder just after he was called up to bowl, had to be replaced in the attack by Samiullah Shinwari, further crippling the team's bowling resources. But it was Hamid's overs that Afghanistan most missed as the game headed to a tense finish.

With 46 to defend off the final five overs, Naib brought himself on to bowl, but ended up conceding 18 runs as Imad Wasim broke free from the shackles of the spinners that bowled before. It was a decisive blow to Afghanistan's hopes of registering their first win of this World Cup. "I think the crucial point is the 46th over that I bowled... 18 runs, it's not really good. [But] if Hamid was there, maybe I wouldn't have bowled more than three or four overs, because I have not that much speed for this kind of surface," Naib said.

Hamid, who watched his team unravel in the tense finish, admitted that he felt emotional and powerless during the final moments of the game as victory was snatched away from his side's grasp. "With four [five] overs to go I was a little emotional. That time I missed myself a lot. Because if I was there... [Mohammad] Nabi even told me that the ball was also reversing... 'if you were there the situation would have changed', he said."

"I'm sorry to all my country, to the fans, to the people that I couldn't continue bowling in the game. I have to say good bye to cricket in ODIs. But I will continue T20 cricket for one-two years. Maybe after two years, I'll stop that also," Hassan added.

Despite going winless in eight World Cup games, Hassan pointed out that Afghanistan held winning positions in at least four games - India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh - and tipped his team to improve over the next couple of years as long as they had regular cricket and batted better.

"I think the batting must improve because the bowling was exceptionally outstanding throughout the World Cup. We restricted Sri Lanka to 200 runs [201], Bangladesh 260 [262]... they scored 300+ in every game. Only one game, England scored 395 [397] something. Rest of the other matches, our boys did really well. It's cricket. If we play regularly against big teams, maybe Afghanistan will be much improved in next 2-3 years. "

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