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Shoaib Malik Stars in a Heart Stopper against Afghanistan

Shoaib Malik Stars in a Heart Stopper against Afghanistan
©Reuters
 

Pakistan owed their thrilling 3-wicket win over Afghanistan to Shoaib Malik, whose perfectly paced unbeaten 51 off 43 balls included a six in the final over off pace bowler, Aftab Alam. The tearful bowler sunk to his knees, to be consoled by his team mates and both Pakistan batsmen. Afghanistan had done themselves proud and would be an even more dangerous and competitive opponent in the rest of the tournament. An intriguing see saw of a limited-overs game, eventually won by a more experienced side.

Afghanistan  257-6 (Hashmatullah Shahidi 97*, Asghar Afghan 67; Mohammad Nawaz 3-57 )

Pakistan 258-7 (Imam ul-Haq 80, Babar Azam 66, Shoaib Malik 51*; Rashid Khan 3-46) )

Result – Pakistan won by 3 wickets

Scorecard

In terms of crowd participation, Friday, a holiday in UAE, was an ideal day for a day-night ODI between Afghanistan and Pakistan in Abu Dhabi. A fixture, for reasons of common heritage and lineage and recent political tension between the two nations, was played in front of a full house. Afghanistan, are on a roll and seem to have enough confidence to give their rivals, a real tough game. The Pakhtoon-speaking element, well-known for its aggression and resilience in upholding its territory for centuries, is present in both the teams, and guaranteed fireworks with both bat and ball.

Afghanistan, undoubtedly the most exciting cricket nation to emerge in the last decade and with two wins against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the group stages of the 2018, comes face to face against Pakistan, in the second match of the Super Four stages of the 2018 Asia Cup. It has come leaps and bounds in the white-ball cricket, more so in the Asian sub-continent and UAE.

Afghanistan team has a world-class player in Rashid Khan, who in no time has risen to become one of the highest-paid cricketers in the t20 leagues, around the world. He celebrated his20th birthday in style, last night in Abu Dhabi. Coming in at number 9, he smashed 57notout off 32balls and followed it up with 2-13 off 9 overs of mesmerising wrist spin. He was an obvious Man of the Match that and a key factor in an overwhelming 136-run victory off Bangladesh.

Pakistan, following their feeble display against India, in the group stages, needed to review, both their playing eleven and the game plan. Mohammed Amir, a new-ball bowler of great potential, can not be said to be out of luck for ever. The cutting edge that earned him world fame in the 2009-10 period, is no longer there. At present, almost guaranteed a place in the side, he is merely keeping it tight and not creating enough threat to claim wickets. Junaid Khan, the only survivor of the Pakistan team in its last clash with Afghanistan in the 2014 Asia Cup in Bangladesh, was set to be included but was not.

Afghanistan, taking the right option to bat first, reached 257-6, which was more than a fighting total. Occupation of crease, keeping wickets, rotation of strike and common sense featured strongly in their innings. Arriving in the 11th over, Hashmatullah Shahidi, played an anchor role and after hitting three boundaries off Usman Khan in the 50th over, was unbeaten on 97. His 4th wicket stand worth 94 runs in 16.3 overs with captain, Asghar Afghan (67), steadied the innings without the run-rate dropping too much. 18-year old Shaheen Afridi, one of five Pathans in 16-man Pakistan squad, was the only bowler who escaped punishment as he picked up 2-38 of 10 overs, on his ODI debut.

It is not too often that Pakistan has chased down 250 plus total, under lights, in an ODI and got off to a worst possible start with its star batsman Fakhar Zaman, perishing for a sixth-ball duck. The score stood at 57-1 after 15 overs and on a slow pitch, the main threat coming from off spinners, Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb ur Rahman and the exciting Rashid Khan, who came on to bowl with the score standing at 80-1.

The stand between Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam, swayed the match in their team’s favour. A hundred mark was reached in the 24th over and at the drinks break, the score had advanced to 153-1 in 33 overs with 105 required off 17 overs. Imam, had responded well under pressure and batting within his limit, hit 80 off 104 balls with 5 fours and a six. He was run out of a direct hit in the 34th over by that time Pakistan had firm control over the game. His dismissal was followed by Babar, out in the following over 66 off 94 balls with 4 fours and a six.

Pakistan progressed to 183-3 (40 overs), leaving itself 75 off last 10 overs, with 3 remaining from Rashid, whose low skiddy wrist spin, causing a real threat. It was proving a nerve wrecking run chase for supporters of both teams – 42 off the last 5 overs with 5 wickets in hand. Boundaries had dried up and panic did set in like it usually does with Pakistan, with the departure of Haris Sohail, Sarfraz Ahmed and Asif Ali. It came down to the last over with 10 required and had it not been for the cool head of Shoaib Malik, who after a dot ball, smashed a mid-wicket six and followed it up with a glance to fine-leg. Pakistan were home with only 3 balls left. A stunning performance by Afghanistan, who came agonisingly close in toppling Pakistan.

Pakistan - Fakhar Zaman, Imam ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed(c)(wk), Asif Ali, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Nawaz, Hasan Ali, Usman Shinwari, Shaheen Afridi

Afghanistan - Mohammad Shahzad(wk), Ihsanullah, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Asghar Afghan(c), Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Aftab Alam

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