Asif Ali’s cameo of 25 from just 7 balls took Pakistan to victory with an over to spare against Afghanistan in the Super 12 stage of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021.
Needing 24 off the last two overs, Ali used only one of those overs as he smacked Karim Janat for four sixes to get Pakistan across the line. The victory makes it three wins out of three for Pakistan. They sit comfortably on top of the Group 2 table in the Super 12 stage of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup.
After the early wicket of Mohammad Rizwan, it was Bazar Azam and Fakhar Zaman that set the foundation for Pakistan’s win with a steady 63-run partnership.
Afghanistan fought well in a game that ebbed and flowed. Although they had lost half their side inside the first 10 overs and were were in a spot of bother at 76/6, Mohammad Nabi and Gulbadin Naib’s unbeaten 71-run stand helped them put up a fighting total.
Afghanistan top order crumbles
Afghanistan captain Nabi won the toss and opted to bat first against Pakistan at the Dubai International Stadium, with both teams unchanged. Teams chasing in Dubai have won four games out of four so far in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup but Afghanistan decided to play to their strengths instead.
That call came in for question as they lost four wickets inside the Powerplay. Shaheen Afridi troubled the openers in the first over of the innings but didn’t get a wicket despite striking the pads thrice.
To release the pressure, Hazratullah Zazai charged Imad Wasim at the other end but only managed to top edge to Haris Rauf at third, who took a good tumbling catch. After striking Afghanistan’s first boundary, Mohammad Shahzad fell trying to take Afridi on again.
Asghar Afghan and Rahmanullah Gurbaz provided some respite, taking 17 runs off Imad’s second over, including two sixes and a four. However, both batters fell within five balls, with Rauf and Hasan Ali getting on the wickets column.
Najibullah Zadran and Karim Janat steadied the ship with a 25-run partnership that went at just over a run a ball. Despite a couple of quiet overs, they made up their run rate by striking two fours off Hasan Ali and Shadab Khan.
Just when it looked like Afghanistan had a launching pad in the middle overs, Janat holed out in the deep as they lost half their side inside the first ten overs. At the halfway stage, Afghanistan were 65/5.
Nabi, Naib stand tall
Najibullah Zadran, in the company of skipper Nabi, had to once again consolidate after the wicket of Janat. Hasan Ali bowled a magnificent over in the middle, forcing Zadran to play out a maiden in the 12th over.
The pressure of the maiden over led to the downfall of Zadran, as Shadab Khan did him with a wonderful googly, just a ball after being hit for a six.
With wickets falling at the other end, Nabi took it upon himself to bring some stability. In the next two overs, the skipper found the boundary three times to keep them going at around 6 runs per over.
They finally teed off in the 18th over with Naib targeting Hasan Ali. He smashed him for a six and a four off the first two balls before hitting another boundary, fetching Afghanistan 21 runs in the over.
The carnage continued, with Rauf leaking three fours, giving away 15 in the penultimate over. Afridi was sensational in the last over, giving away only six singles and a no-ball to keep Afghanistan’s score below 150.
Pakistan recover after Afghanistan strike early
Afghanistan started with spin at both ends and suffocated the Pakistan openers for runs early on. The pressure almost got the wicket of Azam, who would have had to make the long walk back had the fielder at midwicket hit the stumps directly at the bowler’s end.
The move did pay dividends though, as Rizwan failed to clear the ropes, holing out to Naveen-ul-Haq at deep square.
Walking in at No.3, Fakhar released the pressure inside the Powerplay. He launched into Nabi after playing out just four balls, smashing the skipper for a four and a six against the spin. He punished Naveen for bowling on his pads, swiping it past short fine for a four as Pakistan finished the Powerplay on 38/1.
Babar, at the other end, did not look his best by his own lofty standards, bringing up his first boundary only in the ninth over, but did manage to hit a couple more to the ropes thereafter. The pair brought up their 50-run partnership as Pakistan went into the drinks breaks needing 76 from the last 10 overs.
Rashid, Nabi tighten the screws
It took Afghanistan 10 overs to bring Rashid Khan on and he immediately had the batters in all sorts of trouble, inducing five false shots in his opening over, including an LBW decision that was eventually overturned by DRS in Pakistan’s favour.
Afghanistan finally broke the partnership between Fakhar and Babar, with Nabi trapping the former in front of the stumps. The DRS did not come to Pakistan’s rescue this time around, with the ball tracker showing three reds.
Rashid finally struck in his third over to remove Mohammad Hafeez and wheeled away in celebration of his 100th T20I wicket. The wrist-spinner reached the milestone in just his 53rd game, thus becoming the fastest player to get to the mark in Men’s T20Is.
Rashid proved to be expensive in his final over, with Shoaib Malik sending a half-tracker over the ropes. However, it ended well for Afghanistan despite a dropped chance, as Rashid cleaned up Babar, who had just brought up his half-century, with a wonderful googly.
Naveen-ul-Haq made up for the dropped catch by bowling a brilliant 18th over, giving away just two runs and also snaring the wicket of the experienced Malik.
Asif Ali does it again
Needing 24 off the last two overs, it was once again Ali who came to Pakistan’s rescue at the end, smashing four sixes to seal the win for Pakistan.
He smashed the first ball for a six to calm the nerves in the dugout. Janat nailed a yorker the next ball but was smoked for a six over midwicket.
After yet another inch-perfect yorker, Asif finished the game off with two consecutive sixes straight down to secure Pakistan their third win of the tournament.
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