37th over: Rashid Khan outfoxes Imad Wasim, a big shout for leg-before is turned down by umpire Paul Wilson. No referrals since Afghanistan wasted it on Babar Azam earlier.
46th over: With the option of pressurising Pakistan by bowling spin and closing out the game, Afghan skipper Gulbadin Naib opted to bowl himself. A well set Imad smashed 18 runs to reduce the equation to 28 off 24 with four wickets in hand.
These were two standout moments that cost Afghanistan a second World Cup victory as Pakistan sneaked home by three wickets to move up to fourth on the points table.
What should have been an elementary chase of 229 at Headingly, Leeds was made to look herculean by Afghanistan’s spin trio of Mohammad Nabi, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Rashid Khan.
Shoaib Akhtar probably isn’t the greatest cricketing pundit but he has been spot on with his analysis of Afghanistan’s batting strategy. Prior to Pakistan’s clash with neighbours Afghanistan, on his Youtube channel, Akthar opined that Gulbadin Naib’s men were growing as a cricketing nation thanks to India’s hospitality but had failed to imbibe batting maturity from them.
The same can be said of Pakistan’s batsmen too considering most of their batsmen fell to ordinary strokes when the need of the hour was to just stick around and knock off the singles.
Barring luck and a mature knock from Imad, Pakistan would have fallen to an embarrassing defeat.
Opting to bat first, Naib and Rahmat Shah began in effervescent fashion picking their spots nicely and racing to 27 in 4.3 overs before Shaheen Shah Afridi’s double blow rocked the Afghans.
A loose shot from Naib saw him caught behind for 15 off 12 balls before Hashmatullah Shahidi timed a flick horribly to hole out to mid-off the very next delivery.
It was once again a blatant case of wasting a good start. Wicket-keeper Ikram Alikhil was promoted up the order but seemed completely out of sorts right from the word go.
Rahmat Shah was going well at the other end but just as the innings began gaining some momentum, Imad Wasim cut short his cameo of 35, Afghanistan struggling at 57 for three.
With the side in dire need of some inspiration, former skipper Asghar Afghan walked in and injected some much-needed intent. Afghan hasn’t had the best strike-rate this World Cup but he looked a completely different entity taking a particular liking to the spinners.
But just when he looked good to get a big score, he reaffirmed Akhtar’s observation and performed hara-kiri, castled by Shadab Khan after attempting a needless stroke.
It has been the story of Afghanistan’s World Cup so far where they have been inept at consolidating their position when asked to do so.
Barring a composed 42 off 54 from the talented Najibullah Zadran, it was a tale of rash strokes that once again left the bowlers with a paltry total to defend. And didn’t they rise up to the challenge.
Pakistan got off to the worst start possible with Fakhar Zaman outfoxed by the wily Mujeeb Ur Rahman off just the second delivery of the run chase.
Babar Azam has been consistent in his ODI career and the right-hander once again began the rebuilding process in an assured manner.
Imam-ul-Haq and Babar seemed like they would easily take Pakistan over the line but Nabi had different ideas, sending the pair back to the hut in a two-over spell where he put the skids on the opposition.
Sarfaraz Khan’s run-out in the 39th over put Afghanistan in the driving seat and Afghanistan continued to strangle Pakistan for another five overs.
46 were required off 30 balls with Imad and Shadab Khan struggling to put away the spinners when Naib made a match-changing decision of bowling himself and the rest as they say, is history.