Asif Ali's four sixes calm Pakistan's nerves in a tense run chase

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safari
29 Oct 2021 | 07:07 PM
authorcricket.com staff

Asif Ali's four sixes calm Pakistan's nerves in a tense run chase

With this win, Pakistan have consolidated their position at the top of the table in Group 2

It was not a high-scoring game. It didn’t need to be. It was still the most entertaining game of the Super 12 stage thus far. It had everything - a batting collapse, resurrecting partnerships, high-class spin and pace bowling and a memorable finish. All of it laden in an electric environment constituted by Pakistan and Afghanistan cricket fans in the Ring of Fire that is the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. 

Ultimately, Afghanistan fell short by a quality pacer. They were stuck with the gentle medium-pace of Karim Janat in the 19th over, which Asif Ali creamed for four sixes to finish a tense run chase with an over to spare. Pakistan have now forged a hat-trick of victories in their Super 12 group. 

The Mohammad Nabi-led side fought hard until then. They posted 147 on the board after a tricky start. With the ball, they brought the equation down to 24 off 12 balls before Ali’s Carlos Brathwaite-esque finish. 

Pakistan skipper Babar Azam scored a composed 51, negotiating the three Afghan spinners for most part of the run chase. Pakistan lost Mohammad Rizwan (8) to Mujeeb Ur Rahman early in their chase but Azam and Fakhar Zaman (30) kept the innings under control with their 63-run stand. Mujeeb was exceptional upfront for Afghanistan as he conceded only 14 runs in his four-over spell.

However, Mohammad Nabi, despite dismissing Zaman, had an off night with the ball as he leaked 36 runs in his four overs. Janat barely troubled anyone while Naveen Ul Haq was taken for 20 runs in his first two overs. 

Besides Mujeeb, it was Rashid Khan’s spell that kept Afghanistan in the game. Rashid was brought on the attack quite late in the innings - 11th over - but troubled Babar throughout, beating him on all edges of the bat. 

With the game swinging like a pendulum in the second half of Pakistan’s chase, Rashid knocked over Babar on the last ball of his spell. He had also dismissed Mohammad Hafeez (10) in his previous over. 

With Babar back to the hut, the onus was back on Shoaib Malik and Asif Ali to replicate their heroics against New Zealand where they saw the chase through. Malik did strike a six in Rashid’s last over but ended up caught behind when he flashed hard on a widish ball from Naveen in the 18th over. Ali, however, feasted on Afghanistan’s shortcoming, smashing Janat military medium pace for four sixes. 

Earlier, Pakistan's expansive attack dominated the proceedings but Nabi (35) and Gulbadin Naib (35) seized the momentum with their big-hearted effort under pressure, preventing it from becoming a one-sided contest. They added 71 runs in 7.1 overs with 43 coming in the last three overs.

It all started when Naib carted Hasan Ali for 21 runs in the 17th over. Together they hit 10 boundaries.

Initially, Shaheen Afridi's probing yorkers, Haris Rauf's variation complemented the control of Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan to test the Afghan batters. Surprisingly, Afghanistan opted to bat first at a ground where the chasing team have won every time in this Super 12 stage. 

Pacer Afridi created pressure on Afghan batters straightaway with his toe-targeting fiery first over and left-arm spinner Wasim followed that up with another tight over upfront. The dot-ball pressure got the better of Hazratullah Zazai (0), who went after Wasim and ended up giving a catch to Haris Rauf.

Mohammad Shahzad (8) lifted Afridi's overpitched ball in the cover region to get the first boundary of the team but could not clear the mid-on one ball later to start his walk back to the dug out.

Realizing that it will be difficult to score off Afridi, former skipper Asghar Afghan (10) and Rahmanullah Gurbaz (10) targeted Wasim and collected 17 runs from his next over, both hitting him for a six each.

Afghan's younger brother Jannat (15) came to the crease and together with Najibullah Zadran (22) had the responsibility to keep afloat his side, which was tottering at 39 for four inside Powerplay overs.

It kept getting worse for Afghanistan as neither the runs came at a good pace and they kept losing wickets. Janat and Zadran were scalped by Wasim and Shadab respectively, leaving Nabi with a difficult task to put enough runs on the board to defend, which he did with Naib.

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Afghanistan vs PakistanICC World Twenty20, 2021AfghanistanPakistanGulbadin NaibMohammad NabiAdil RashidMujeeb Ur RahmanKarim JanatNaveen-ul-HaqBabar AzamShaheen AfridiHaris Rauf

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