Asif’s long sixes win it for Pakistan after late jitters
Shadab Khan (L) and Asif Ali celebrate their win in the ICC men’s Twenty20 World Cup cricket match between Afghanistan and Pakistan. AFP
Asif Ali, Pakistan’s power hitter, at last, came out of his shell by registering his back-to-back big-hitting finishes for Pakistan as the green shirts registered their third consecutive victory in the Tweny20 World Cup Friday.
Afghanistan spinners squeezed Pakistan batting line-up that set up an exciting finish of the match as the required run-rate continued to increase as Pakistani batters found it hard to play big hits.
The match’s momentum shifted in Afghanistan’s favour after Babar Azam and Shoaib Malik fell. Asif refused to take a single in the 18th over’s last ball faced by Shadab Khan to take the matters in hand.
Prior to this World Cup, Asif always struggled at the international arena despite his heroics in the T20 leagues. But it seems he is not ready to let this opportunity slip and holding it with both hands.
After taking the matters into his hands, Asif struck four mighty sixes in the penultimate over bowled by Karim Janat and nailed the target for his team. Earlier in the match against New Zealand, it was Asif who changed the match in Pakistan’s favour and repeated the feet again.
Babar scored 51 off 47 balls, Fakhar Zaman 30 off 25 balls, Asif Ali 25* off 7 balls, Shoaib Malik 19 off 15 balls, Hafeez 10 off 10 balls and Rizwan 8 off 10 balls.
Earlier, a late flourish from Gulbadin Naib and Muhammad Nabi helped Afghanistan give Pakistan a target of 147 runs in their Group 2 clash of the World T20 Cup being played in Dubai.
Afghanistan were reeling at 76-6 before Naib started attacking Hasan Ali in the 18th over of the innings and got 21 runs from the over that also included a no-ball.
The next over of Haris Rauf was equally expensive as he conceded 15 runs. Pakistan were also sloppy in the fielding while dropping catches and missing run-out chances.
Naib and Nabi mustered 71 runs for the unbroken seventh-wicket partnership.
Pakistan were in the driving seat in most part of the match after its bowlers did the trick once again and it seemed Afghanistan may be bundled out below 100 runs.
However, cool and calculated innings from Nabi and Naib gave Afghanistan bowlers a decent total to defend.
After electing to bat, Afghanistan innings saw a rocky start as after surviving a few appeals and a review decision in the first over of Shaheen Shah Afridi, Hazratullah Zazai got under pressure and was caught by Haris Rauf while trying to go for a big one, off Imad Wasim for a duck.
In the very next over, Afridi removed the second opener Muhammad Shahzad who scored eight runs off nine balls with the help of a boundary. Asghar Afghan and Rahmanullah Gurbaz were also gone quickly after scoring 10 runs each by Haris Rauf and Hasan respectively.
Imad took his second wicket when he removed Karim Janat (15 off 17) and then Shadab Khan removed Najibullah Zadran (22 off 21).
Afghanistan were 76-6 in the 13th over before Naib and Nabi changed the situation. Pakistan bowlers conceded 54 runs in the last five overs as Afghanistan settled for 147-6 in their 20 overs.
Naib was unbeaten on 35 off 25 balls with the help of four boundaries and a six. Nabi also remained not out for his 35 off 32 balls with the help of five boundaries.
Earlier, Afghanistan won the toss and elected to bat first in a key Group 2 match against Pakistan in the World T20 match.
Pakistan may be happy with Afghanistan’s skipper Mohammad Nabi’s decision as so far Pakistan have won the early two matches by chasing the target and the trend says the team bat second wins the match.
Nabi said it was a dry pitch and looks good for batting first. However, it is to be seen that how the dew factor will affect the match in the latter part of the match.
Both teams are undefeated so far and a win for Pakistan would guarantee a place in the semi-finals of the world's biggest tournament.
With two early wins, Pakistan's chances of reaching the semi-finals are bright. However, given the conditions in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Afghanistan's performances so far, Afghanistan is also considered a dangerous side.
Pakistan thrashed India well in the first match, beating the team by 10 wickets. They also easily defeated the Kiwis in their second match.
Afghanistan have emerged as a dangerous side in the tournament as in their warm-up match, they easily defeated defending champions West Indies. They also beat Scotland by a huge margin of 130 runs in the Group Two match.
Afghanistan went in the match with an unchanged XI that thrashed Scotland. Pakistan also retained its winning combination against a very talented Afghan side.
Afghanistan: Hazratullah Zazai, Mohammad Shahzad, Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi (capt), Asghar Afghan, Gulbadin Naib, Karim Janat, Rashid Khan, Naveen-ul-Haq, Mujeeb-ur-Rahman.
Pakistan: Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Babar Azam (capt), Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim, Hasan Ali, Haris Rauf, Shaheen Shah Afridi.