Asia Cup 2022, Super 4, Pakistan vs Afghanistan: Shadab Khan's 36 & 1-27, Naseem Shah's 1-19 & 14, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Fareed Ahmad's three-fer are top performances. Pakistan beat Afghanistan in Super 4 game and advance to Asia Cup Final.
Brief Scores: Afghanistan 129/6 (Zadran 35, Zazai 21, Rauf 2/26) lost to Pakistan 131/9 (Shadab 36, Iftikhar 30, Fareed 3/31) by one wicket
Player of the Match: Shadab Khan – 36(26) & 1/27
An in-form Pakistan faced Afghanistan in a virtual eliminator at Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Wednesday. While Pakistan were coming off from a confidence booster win against arch rivals India, Afghanistan were looking to bounce back after their loss against Sri Lanka to keep their and India’s hope of staying alive in the tournament.
Afghanistan fought hard but Pakistan kept their nerves
Though Afghanistan ended up on the losing side, their never give up approach in their defence of a mediocre 129 shone through like a beacon. Afghanistan bowlers bowled with their heart out and the determination to win the game was seen on all the six bowlers used in the game. The buzzing and electrifying fielding of Afghanistan was the clear outlier of today’s game. Positives from the fielding and the bowling confidence is something Afghanistan will take into the next game and the world cup.
Pakistan emerge victors by one wicket to reach Asia Cup 2022 Final
Going into the game, Pakistan had an upperhand over Afghanistan with two victories in as many T20I games. The trend with the team winning the toss and opting to field first in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) continued as Pakistan won the toss and followed suit.
Afghanistan started their innings handsomely scoring 16 runs in the second over of the innings. The openers, Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Hazratullah Zazai, scored at a brisk pace of eight runs per over and ended the first powerplay with 48 runs on the board for the loss of two wickets. Pakistan’s spin twins of Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz squeezed the scoring rate between overs 7 to 12 as Afghanistan scored just 31 off 36 deliveries losing one wicket. Pakistan’s pace battery ensured to keep the momentum of picking wickets at regular intervals in the next eight overs and eventually applied the brakes on the scoring rate as Afghanistan were restricted to 129/6 in 20 overs.
Pakistan were off to the worst possible start chasing this mediocre target, losing the out of form Babar Azam for a golden duck on the second ball of the run chase. This was also only the second time ever Babar was dismissed for a golden duck in his T20I career. Afghanistan’s energy was over the roof and it was reflecting in their fielding too as a brilliant direct hit from Najibullah brought an end to Fakhar Zaman’s lazy innings.
Rashid Khan was experimental in dismissing Pakistan’s most successful batter since 2020, Mohammad Rizwan. Rizwan was struck on the backfoot in front of the wicket to a classic Rashid wrong ‘un. This was only the second time in 30 T20I innings since January 2020 that both Babar and Rizwan failed to cross the 20-run mark in the same innings. At the end of the 10th over, Pakistan were struggling at 52-3 scoring at just 5.2 runs per over. Shadab and Iftikhar steadied Pakistan’s sinking ship with a 47-run partnership for the fifth wicket and what followed was nothing short of madness.
A vintage Pakistan middle-order collapse gave not just Afghanistan but also India some hopes. The balance of the match swung like a baby sleeping in a cradle. Pakistan got few streaky boundaries and Afghanistan then came back into the game with regular wickets. It was all over for Pakistan with nine wickets down and 11 required off the final six, until a 19-year-old Naseem Shah turned back the clock to the Shahid Afridi-era with two sixes off two deliveries in the final over to seal the game for Pakistan and reserve a slot in the finals of Asia Cup 2022.
Let’s recount the top three performances from the game between Afghanistan and Pakistan in Asia Cup 2022.
Shadab the all-rounder comes to Pakistan’s rescue with 1-27 & a match-saving 36
The only bowler in the tournament who was yet to be hit for a six, Shadab Khan was brought into the attack in the seventh over just after the powerplay. Before Shadab was introduced, Afghanistan were going at eight runs per over and Shadab was brought on to just do what he does best, weave the spin web. Bowling an economical spell of four overs giving away just 27 runs, Shadab picked an important wicket of Najibullah who was looking to up the ante for Afghanistan.
The all-rounder was promoted up the order with Pakistan in some sort of trouble with 48-3 after 10 overs. Needing another 83 off the next 10, Pakistan needed Shadab to come to the party with the bat. Shadab was sent with a plan, the plan was to target the spinners for a few boundaries and if In the process a wicket fell it wouldn’t have mattered. The all-rounder delivered the goods with 36 off just 26 deliveries smacking three sixes in his innings. Shadab ended up being Pakistan’s highest scorer of the match with his steady yet blistering knock.
Afghan bowling trio – Farooqi, Fareed and Rashid baffles Pakistan in a nail biter
If anyone would have said the match would go down to the final over with just 129 runs on the board, people would have called them nuts. Such was the bowling performance of Afghanistan bowlers who were equally backed by their electrifying fielders inside the inner circle and the ever so chirpy wicketkeeper.
With a wicket of the second ball of the defence, Afghanistan’s energy was over the roof. Farooqi trapped Babar Azam with an in-swinging delivery where Babar was trapped right in front of the wicket for a golden duck. The spin wizard, Rashid Khan joined the party dismissing the most dependable Pakistan batter Mohammad Rizwan who failed to read the googly and was struck plumb in front of the wickets. This wicket gave Afghanistan real hope and energy which was evident from their fielding and the attitude shown by the rest of the bowlers.
Needing just 38 off 24 deliveries with six wickets in hand, it was Pakistan’s game all way along. What followed next was nothing short of carnage. Afghanistan got all the support and buzz at the stadium which energized the players even further as Rashid Khan was back for his final over and dismissed the dangerous Shadab Khan. The match was far from over but Shadab’s wicket dented Pakistan’s confidence and their batting order collapsed like a pack of cards. Fazalhaq Farooqi was backed by Rashid who with a brilliant in-cutter slower delivery deceived Nawaz in front of the stumps for an easy LBW. Farooqi wasn’t done yet as he bowled Khushdil off the last ball of the 18th over.
Fareed Ahmad too joined the party dismissing Haris Rauf and the dangerous Asif Ali in a span of four deliveries. The game was tense and Pakistan’s dressing room was full of nervous energy, fans in and off the stadium were biting their nails anxiously, while 2,462 km away from Sharjah, the hands were folded offering prayers in the Indian subcontinent rooting for Afghanistan. Though Farooqi erred in the final over, it was a collective team effort from all the Afghanistan bowlers and the electrifying fielding effort which never let the game be dull, even for a millisecond.
Naseem Shah does a Shahid Afridi with 6, 6 in the final over
Naseem Shah first bowled his heart out in his four-over spell where he clean bowled Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi for a golden duck. While the other Pakistani bowlers gave runs at more than 5 runs per over, Naseem was the most economical Pakistan bowler in today’s game with a spell of 1-19.
Though it wasn’t Naseem’s primary skill (bowling) that won Pakistan the game. It was the clean striking in the final over that stamped Pakistan’s ticket for the final of Asia Cup 2022. With 11 required of the final six and being nine down, Afghanistan were clear favourites to win this game. Then came Naseem Shah disguised as Shahid Afridi who hit the first delivery straight back over long on for a massive six.
Naseem wasn’t done yet as he showed the audiences a replay of the last shot in the live match by hitting a carbon copy six again over long on off a full toss and ran faster than Usain Bolt celebrating in some fine fashion.
What’s to Come
In less than 24 hours, Afghanistan will be back on the field again to face dejected India on September 8 at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. For India’s relief, they can now try and experiment as much as they would like after being out of the Asia Cup.