It was Naseem Shah’s double sixes in the last over that did it in the end. Maybe, there was no other way this match could have ended. In the midst of plenty of passion on and off the field in Sharjah, Pakistan recorded a thrilling one-wicket win, thus ejecting Afghanistan and India from the 2022 Asia Cup in the final.
What happened in the last few minutes?
Madness. Pakistan needed 45 off the last five overs but a flurry of wickets soon saw them slip from 85/3 to 119/9. Two of those wickets went to Fazalhaq Farooqi, the left-arm pacer who also had the better of Babar Azam with a top in swinger.
Farooqi had 11 runs to guard in the last over that had Pakistan’s No 10 and 11 in front.
Although, Farooqi missed two yorkers and Naseem placed both of them into the stands.
Babar Azam shared after the win that it reminded them of “Babar Azam”.
Was it a difficult pitch?
A used pitch and certainly did not have the carry and bounce as if we saw for the India vs Pakistan play. However, having said that, Afghanistan 2 129 felt under par at the halfway mark. Actually, it was among the lowest totals for Afghanistan at this venue. As they had won 11 out of 16games coming into this fixture.
Limiting them were Haris Rauf’s two wickets, the first of those dismissing Rahmanullah Gurbaz and breaking the threatening 36-run opening stand.
Shadab Khan and Mohammas Nawaz took over in middle overs, as they have done all Asia Cup, and combined to pick 2-50 in the eight overs between them.
Where did Pakistan outsmart Afghanistan?
Plenty on the lines of Nawaz’s promotion against India, was Shadab’s turn to come up with the order Afghanistan.
Pakistan were reeling at 45/3 in 8.4 overs, having lost their trusted top three, push off Shadab Khan. He took his time, playing 9 balls for his first 8 runs before launching into Mohammad Nabi in the 12th over.
It eventually took Rashid Khan to dislodge him but not before he made 36 off 26 and even hit a six off Rashid Khan. As expected, he was named Player of the Match.
How was Afghanistan’s bowling?
Bizarre. From the start, they were on their mark, defending a small total, and had Pakistan at 58/3 after 11 overs.
Left-arm pacers, Farooqi and Fareed Ahmad Malik picked three wickets apiece, Rashid Khan dropped in with two significant wickets in the middle overs and not to forget Mujeeb Zadran, who bowled three overs inside the PowerPlay for only five runs.
Something to bite on
Pakistan were keen on running between the wickets for most of the innings but Asif Ali, who in fact got off the mark with a six in a pressure cooker situation, faced only five balls in the 18th and 19th overs. That means he saw the wickets of Nawaz, Khushdil Shah and Haris Rauf falling at the other end and it meant that the under-far target interpreted into an edgy chase.
Two teams will face again on Thursday IST. However, the result will bear no context in the ongoing Asia Cup. Having said that, both teams would still like to get on the board in Super Four and use the opportunity to figure out plans before the all-significant T20 World Cup.
Afghanistan 129/6 in 20 overs.
Pakistan 131/9 in 19.2 overs.