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ICC T20 WC: Asif Ali's blitzkrieg, Babar's calm approach seals the deal

Pakistan beat Afghanistan by five wickets to register their third straight win in the ICC T20 World Cup at the Dubai International Stadium on Friday night.

After opting to bat, Afghanistan made 147 for six and Pakistan chased down the target with five wickets to spare to finish on 148 for five.

Earlier, Afghanistan struggled in their innings. They lost wickets at regular intervals. Very soon the side slipped to 39 for four. Then there was a brief stand worth 25 for the fifth wicket between Karim Janat and Najibullah Zadran. Afghanistan were struggling at 76 for six in 12.5 overs. It seemed like they would end on a sub par score. But then Mohammad Nabi (35 n.o.) added 71 runs in an unbroken stand for the seventh wicket with Gulbadin Naib (35 n.o.). The score ended on a high for Afghanistan as they finished on 147 for six in 20 overs. For Pakistan the most successful bowler was Imad Wasim (2-25).

Pakistan began their chase by losing Mohammad Rizwan quite early on. Then captain Babar Azam shared a 63 run second wicket stand with Fakhar Zaman. Just when it seemed like Pakistan would be moving at a brisk pace towards a win. But just then Zaman fell and Pakistan were under pressure again. Pakistan's innings struggled to get going for a bit as they lost wickets again in cluster with both Shoaib Malik and captain Azam falling quickly. Azam made 51 off 47 balls with four boundaries. Then just when it looked like the match was getting out hand, Asif Ali came in and struck four sixes in the 19th over to close the match out. Pakistan overhauled the target in 19 overs to finish on 148 for five.

For Afghanistan the best bowler was Rashid Khan (2-26).

Match Summary
Afghanistan: 147-6 (20)
Fall of wickets: 1-7 (Hazratullah Zazai-1.3 ov), 2-13 (Mohammad Shahzad-2.4 ov), 3-33 (Asghar Afghan-4.3 ov), 4-39 (Rahmanullah Gurbaz-5.1 ov), 5-64 (Karim Janat-9.1 ov), 6-76 (Najibullah Zadran-12.5 ov)

Pakistan: 148-5 (19)
Fall of wickets: 1-12 (Mohammad Rizwan-2.3 ov), 2-75 (Fakhar Zaman-11.1 ov), 3-97 (Mohammad Hafeez-14.1 ov), 4-122 (Babar Azam-16.6 ov), 5-124 (Shoaib Malik-17.5 ov)

Result: Pakistan won by five wickets


Match Analysis - Salim Parvez - Asif Ali’s finishing touch

The love-hate sporting rivalry between Afghanistan and Pakistan certainly added spice to a cricketing contest between the two teams at Dubai International Stadium. With heavy Pukhtoon-speaking presence in both camps, there was additional energy for all to recognize and appreciate. In the end it was the clean hitting of Faisalabad-born Asif Ali – with four sixes in the 19th over – that saw Pakistan home by five wickets.

Pakistan team management vary of the threat posed by their opponents in T20 format, were unlikely to drop their guard. Afghanistan chose to bat first and that suited Pakistan, for their wins against India and New Zealand, have both come batting second. With a leg-side six apiece from Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Asghar Afghan off Imad Wasim, Afghanistan scored 49 in the six overs of powerplay but were guilty of hot-headed approach that cost them four front-line wickets.

The 50 of the innings came in 6.2 overs and at the half mark Pakistan slow bowlers had restricted it to 65-5 with Imad finishing with 2-25 off his 4 overs. Even the 63-meterboundary didn’t mean a great deal against quality bowling and Hasan Ali bowled a maiden over to Najibullah Zadran – No.12 of the innings. Skipper Mohammad Nabi played a calm sensible hand as the score read 93-6 after 15 overs and reaching 100 in 15.4 overs. Over number 18 bowled by Hasan went for 21 runs, including 18 from the bat of Gulbadin Naib. The well-thought out 50-run stand for the 7th wicket came off 36 balls as Pakistan knew they would be chasing a target near 150. The 71 runs added in 7.1 overs by Nabi (35 not out off 32 balls) and Naib (35 not out off 25 balls) had certainly given Afghanistan bowlers something to bowl at.

Three world-class slow bowlers - Mujeeb Ur-Rahman, Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan – is what Pakistan batting line-up was up against. Mujeeb removed danger man Mohammad Rizwan, to an outstanding catch on the square leg boundary. At the end of the powerplay, Pakistan had advanced to 38-1 with Fakhar Zaman looking to dominate. The 20-year old Mujeeb, an off-spinner always hard to get after, was bowled out by the 7th over with an excellent analysis of 1-14 off 4 overs.

Asif Ali speaks with the media after Pakistan beat Afghanistan by five wickets #T20WorldCup

© ICC / T20 World Cup

Babar Azam’s scorching drive, over cover point for a boundary, brought up the 50 in 8.1 overs and Pakistan were tightening their grip on the match. Skipper Nabi, still searching for wickets, perhaps was bit late in introducing his key bowler – Rashid Khan, with the score standing at 72-1 after 10 overs. In his first over he almost had Babar’s wicket and looked a real threat. The captain himself removed Fakhar (30 off 25 balls) to peg back Pakistan. Target now was 51 from the six overs when Rashid picked up his 100th T20I wicket in a record-breaking time in his 54th match. Babar’s fifty came off 45 balls but he was now expected to finish it as well. He was dropped and then bowled off Rashid’s last delivery to an ill-advised swipe, to leave Pakistan at 122-4 at the end of 17 overs. 

The 18th over was only worth two runs with the loss of Shoaib Malik and Afghanistan was back in the hunt. Little did anyone know, it will take Asif just seven balls to hit an unbeaten 25 and snatch a victory for Pakistan, with an over to spare. He smashed medium pace of Karim Janat and amazingly was declared Player of the Match.

Playing XIs

Afghanistan: Hazratullah Zazai, Mohammad Shahzad, Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wicket-keeper), Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi (captain), Asghar Afghan, Gulbadin Naib, Karim Janat, Rashid Khan, Naveen-ul-Haq, Mujeeb-ur-Rahman

Pakistan: Mohammad Rizwan (wicket-keeper), Babar Azam (captain), Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim, Hasan Ali, Haris Rauf, Shaheen Shah Afridi

Match Details

Toss: Afghanistan, elected to bat
Venue: Dubai International Stadium, Dubai
Start time: 1800 hrs UAE time
Match officials: Chris Brown, Joel Wilson (On-field umpires); Langton Rusere (TV Umpire); Nitin Menon (Reserve Umpire); David Boon (Match-referee)

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