Pakistan 138-4 (Hafeez 42no) beat
Afghanistan 137-8 (Junaid 3-24) by 6 wickets
Only Twenty20 International, Sharjah
Afghanistan showed just why they will be such dangerous opposition at next year’s ICC World Twenty20 by pushing Pakistan all the way in a one-off Twenty20 International in Sharjah.
Despite posting only a modest 137 for eight after opting to bat, they took the match to the final ball, with Mohammad Hafeez and Umar Akmal playing crucial innings for Pakistan.
Afghanistan were always up against it in the final overs having taken only two Pakistan wickets in the first 16 overs, but had got the equation to 49 runs needed off the final six overs. Unfortunately for them, Hafeez was on hand to guide his side home and the win was sealed when Dawlat Zadran delivered a no ball with what should have been the final delivery.
Ahmed Shehzad had got the Pakistan run chase off to a solid start alongside debutant opener Sharjeel Khan. The pair put on 49 in 45 balls before Shehzad departed to leg-spinner Samiullah Shenwari (1-26) for 35 off 37 balls. Sharjeel followed soon afterwards to Afghan skipper Mohammad Nabi’s off-breaks to give the underdogs hope.
However, Hafeez and Akmal showed their experience and paced their third-wicket partnership well. It yielded 47 runs in 40 balls and took Pakistan close to the winning line. Akmal’s sprightly knock was ended at 28 off 23 balls when he was bowled via an edge by Dawlat Zadran (1-25), with Sohaib Maqsood also run-out before the end.
With six needed from the final over and Shahid Afridi at the crease, anything was possible, but Afridi resisted anything outlandish and a relieved Pakistan scraped home.
Nabi was the pick of the Afghan bowlers with one for 21, with the returning Hamid Hassan - surely so crucial to his side’s hopes in Bangladesh - getting through his four overs at a cost of 29 runs.
Afghanistan’s batting had earlier looked, not for the first time, like it might implode as they lost openers Mohammad Shahzad and Nawroz Mangal inside the first five overs with only seven runs on the board. Sohail Tanvir dispatched a carefree Shahzad for two, while Zulfiqar Babar (1-27) accounted for Mangal (1).
The experienced Asghar Stanikzai and the less experienced Najibullah Zadran, though, steadied the innings with a useful third-wicket partnership. Najibullah would go on to top-score with a career-best 38 off 30 balls - an innings which included two sixes - before giving Junaid Khan one of his three wickets. There were also useful contributions from Nabi (15 off 10 balls) and Shenwari (16 off 10), while Mirwais Ashraf added a late cameo of 28 not out off 22 balls.
Left-armer Tanvir was arguably the pick of the Pakistan bowlers with two wickets and two maidens, while Bilawal Bhatti (1-25), Shahid Afridi (1-24), Babar and Junaid (3-24) were the other wicket-takers.
Pakistan will now play Sri Lanka in the first of two Twenty20 matches in Dubai on Wednesday before a five-match ODI series and three-match Test one. Afghanistan, meanwhile, will play familiar foes Ireland in the final of the five-day ICC Intercontinental Cup, which begins in Dubai on Tuesday.
© Cricket World 2013