Right-armer Naseem Shah hit two telling sixes in the final as Pakistan defeated Afghanistan by one wicket in a thrilling Asia Cup Super 4 match to knock India out of the tournament in Sharjah on Wednesday. Afghanistan held the game firmly until the last remaining, reducing Pakistan to 118 for nine. But Naseem had other plans when he hit Fazalhaq Farooqi two straight sixes to send both Afghanistan and India off the bill for a final berth. With two wins from as many matches, both Pakistan and Sri Lanka have sealed their places in the final of the tournament to be held on Sunday. India and Afghanistan will close the horns in their last Super 4 match on Thursday, which has become insignificant.
Pakistan had a scorching time in their chase, with skipper Babar Azam (0) losing early when the batter suffered another failure after being caught LBW by Fazalhaq Farooqi (3/31) in the second ball of the innings.
To make matters worse for Pakistan, Fakhar Zaman (5) was eliminated in the first pitch of the fourth over on a direct throw by Najibullah Zadran.
Afghanistan gained the upper hand when Rashid Khan (2/25) of form caught Mohammad Rizwan (20) for the wicket with a peach of a pitch that was sure to hit the middle stump, causing the batter to crash on his back foot after pitching net outside the off-stump.
On the back foot after losing three key batters, Shadab Khan (36) took the charge to the opposition and Mohammad Nabi skipped for a six and a four in the 12th to break the cuffs.
Shadab was offensive at his best when he sent a Mujeeb delivery across the long border to be at the bottom of the equation.
Fareed Ahmed (3/31) brought Afghanistan back into the game by breaking the dangerous-looking 45-run fifth-wicket tie between Iftikhar Ahmed (30) and Shadab.
Ifitkhar pulled a slower short pitch straight to the hands of Ibrahim Zadran when the batter didn’t get a raise.
New man in, Mohammad Nawaz made his intentions clear and led another short delivery from Ahmed past the wicketkeeper to the third man boundary.
But Shadab looked in ominous form as he dragged Rashid across the border to relieve the pressure.
However, Rashid had the last laugh when he knocked off Shadab into the next ball, with the thick-edged batter hitting a short third man to Azmatullah Omarzai.
But there was hardly any respite for Rashid as Asif Ali dragged him into the next ball for another six.
Two wickets bowled over in the 18th by Fazalhaq Farooqi tipped the balance of the match in Afghanistan’s favour.
He first sacked Nawaz and then went through Khushdil Shah’s defense when Pakistan lost the plot.
Fareed Ahmed then cleared Haris Rauf in the first delivery of the next as Pakistan dropped to 110 for eight.
Fareed Ahmed delivered another telling blow to Pakistan in the penultimate ball of the 19th over, scalping Asif Ali’s vital wicket.
With 11 needed from the final, Naseem Shah showed his decisiveness and defeated Fazalhaq Farooqi for back-to-back sixes to seal the match in Pakistan’s favour.
Earlier, Pakistan handed out a fine bowling show to limit Afghanistan to a substandard 129 for six. Afghanistan got off to a positive start after being sent in to play with Hazratullah Zazai (21) and wicketkeeper Rahmanullah Gurbaz (17) sharing 36 runs for the opening wicket.
After a quiet opening over, Afghanistan broke free in the next over, with Gurbaz hitting Mohammad Hasnain for back-to-back sixes to score 16 runs.
Zazai matched his partner by finding the boundary twice in the next over before Haris cleared Rauf Gurbaz in the fifth delivery of the fourth over.
Despite the fall of the wicket, Zazai continued his attacking vein, hitting Hasnain for a boundary before dying in the fifth throw after the bowler castrated him with a deceptively slower throw.
Karim Janat (15) and Ibrahim Zadran (35 of 37) then tried to stabilize the ship as Afghanistan reached 72 for two in 10 overs.
With runs that were hard to come by, Janat tried to force the pace of the innings, but in vain when he was hollowed over in the 12th by Fakhar Zaman off Mohammad Nawaz as he tried for an extravagant slog sweep.
Najibullah Zadran (10) started his knock in a rambunctious fashion, hitting Shadab Khan across the deep midwicket before the spinner had his last laugh.
Things went from bad to worse for Afghanistan as Mohammad Nabi took off in the next ball while Naseem Shah disrupted his wood for a first-ball duck.
However, Ibrahim Zadran continued to play his attacking shots, hitting Shadab to the max over the cover fence in the next over.
Zadran’s knock was aborted in the next over by Rauf (2/26), when the batter shoved a pitch behind stumps to Mohammad Rizwan.
In the final over, Rashid Khan (18 not out) used his long handle to great effect, beating Rauf for a six and a four to pick up 10 runs and bring Afghanistan close to the 130 run.
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