It was a major setback for the injury-depleted Afghan lineup, missing one of the most highly rated bowlers in short-form cricket as they tried to defend a small total of 172. The New Zealanders, runners-up at the last World Cup, cruised to victory with one-third of their allotted overs to spare.
It was a third consecutive loss for Afghanistan in the 10-team tournament, and came in the wake of influential batsman-wicketkeeper Mohammad Shahzad being ruled out of the tournament with an injured knee.
The International Cricket Council issued a statement saying Rashid was withdrawn from the game at Somerset's County Ground as a precaution. And Afghanistan captain Gulbadin Naib later said his star spinner's condition wasn't as bad as it first seemed.
"He's feeling much now better. So he's fine," Naib said, attributing Rashid's absence to the fact he'd been stunned by a blow to the head from a ball traveling at 140 kph (87 mph) and the team doctor told him to rest. "That's why he didn't come to the ground."
Rashid was bowled without scoring when he was hit by a delivery that jagged back, bounced sharply into him and deflected into the stumps. He walked away from the crease with his head down, and was checked by team medical staff before he reached the boundary. He failed an initial test for concussion and the team's doctor later decided it was safer not to send Rashid back onto the field.
After playing three games in eight days, Afghanistan now gets a week off before its next match against South Africa. The International Cricket Council has concussion protocols that Rashid needs to clear before he can play again, but Naib is confident his bowling ace will be available after a week.
"He's well," he said, "Afghani people are strong." The 20-year-old legspinner is No. 1 in the Twenty20 cricket rankings and in the top three in the ODI format, but has been relatively subdued so far in the tournament with 1-52 against Australia and 2-17 against Sri Lanka in his first two games.
Afghani fast bowler Hamid Hassan said the whole squad would benefit from an extended break between games. "We have to reset our mindset again for six matches," he said. "At least we can try our best to win two or three matches.
"We have to always think and stay positive. Until the end of the last ball of the last game, we'll keep the spirit high."
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