Pakistan beat Afghanistan by 1 wicket to reach the final of the Asia Cup. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Match summary — Pakistan win a nervy game to enter final

Fast bowler Naseem Shah struck back-to-back sixes in the final over to lift Pakistan to a one-wicket win over Afghanistan in a nail-biting Super 4 encounter of the DP World Asia Cup. The victory at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium helped Pakistan seal a place in the final while extinguishing the dim Indian hopes of making the finals.

Eleven runs were required for a Pakistan win in the last over when Fazalhaq Farooqi steamed in to bowl his yorkers. He missed them both, and Shah hoisted them over long-off, bringing the packed stadium to its feet.

Farooqi had earlier brought Afghanistan into the match with a double blow in the 18th over, dismissing Mohammad Nawaz and Khushdil Shah. When Fareed Ahmed claimed Asif Ali’s wicket in the next over, Afghanistan had taken six wickets in 22 balls. Recovering from a scare in the powerplay, Pakistan had reached a comfortable 87/4 before they hit the skids. That’s when Naseem Shah showed that he was more than just a fast bowler.

Afghanistan, who were asked to bat first, faced plenty of problems from the pace and spin of Pakistan after Rahmanullah Gurbaz gave them a good start. Karim Janat and Ibrahim Zadran did some rebuilding, and Rashid Khan’s final flourish helped Afghanistan reach 129/6.

The total was sub-par, but the Afghan bowlers backed a huge crowd nearly upstaged Pakistan. A brave performance indeed.

Pakistan win

Pakistan beat Afghanistan by one wicket in a thriller to enter the final.

A wicket against the run of play

Vice-captain Shadab Khan’s muscular hits for sixes were taking Pakistan towards the Afghan total of 129 when Iftikhar Ahmed departed. The two had strung together 41 runs for the fourth wicket, taking Pakistan to 87/4. This means they are 43 runs away from victory with 27 balls left. In between, Afghan off-spinner Mujib ur Rehman finished with superb figures of 4-0-12-0.

Pakistan cruise towards the target

After overcoming some early alarms, Pakistan are coasting to victory over Afghanistan. They lost the tournament’s leading run-getter Mohammad Rizwan (27 off 33 balls) along the way, but he had repaired the damage inflicted by the dismissals of captain Babar Azam and Fakhar Zaman. It’s not an easy wicket to bat on, and Afghan bowlers are making it more challenging. But Pakistan should not have much worries in knocking off 78 from 60 balls

Pakistan fans enjoying a six by Shadab Khan against Afghanistan during their Asia Cup match at Sharjah cricket stadium. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Pakistan batters Iftikhar and Rizwan need to keep their heads down and keep the score board ticking. Keeping wickets in hand is the key now for Pakistan to win this match. The required run rate is under control and should not be problem to achieve the target of 130 runs even without hitting boundaries. Pakistan scored 35/2 in the six over powerplay.

Afghanistan strike back

Afghanistan showed that there is still plenty of fight left in him, picking up two wickets as Pakistan finished the powerplay at 35/2. Captain Babar Azam's dismal run continued with a golden duck, and Fakhar Zaman was run out. But Mohammad Rizwan is running the chase with occasional boundaries as he consolidates in the company of Iftikar Ahmed.

Big wicket for Afghanistan

Pakistan captain Babar Azam's bad form continues as he once again failed to score runs. He got out on a golden duck. Left arm pacer Farooqi got him as he could not read the swinging ball hitting the pads with loud LBW call. This is the ideal start for Afghanistan defending a small total of 129.

Fakhar Zaman is new batsman. Pakistan 6/1 in first over. Its time that Rizwan and Fakhar Zaman dig deep and stay on the wicket.

Midway report — Afghans stumble against tight Pakistan bowling

Afghanistan lost their way after a brisk start and finished with 129/6 against Pakistan in a Super 4 game in the DP World Asia Cup. It certainly is a sub-par score in a crunch encounter, and there will be little surprise when Pakistan seals their place in the final with a win at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.

Put into bat, the in-form Afghan batter Rahmanull Gurbaz blazed away, but Pakistan reeled them, and the spinners put the chokes on the scoring. Facing the need to score quickly against some quality bowling, Afghan batters fell in succession. Only Rashid Khan’s late order 15-ball 18 lent some respectability.

All Pakistan bowlers, except Mohammad Hasnain, turned in fine spells. Skipper Babar Azam shuffled the bowlers astutely, with most of his changes bringing wickets.

Afghanistan batsmen lose their way

Afghanistan’s attempts to shrug off the shackles invited trouble as they lost three wickets in 18 balls. Karim Janat and Najibullah Zadran fell in attempts to force the pace against some fine Pakistan bowling. Afghan skipper Mohammad Nabi was beaten by the first ball from Naseem Shah, and played on to the stumps. Afghanistan were 93/5 at the end of 15 overs, and it looks an uphill climb from here.

Mohammad Nabi
Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi is bowled by Pakistan pacer Naseem Shah. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Big blow for Afghanistan

Pakistan bowlers stuck again with two wickets in two consecutive overs. Vice-captain Shaddab Khan got the wicket of big hitter Najeebullah Zadran, who was caught by Fakhar Zaman at the boundary while trying to hit big. But the big blow came when Afghan captain Mohammad Nabi was bowled on golden duck by pacer Naseem Shah. Pakistani bowlers have managed to contain Afghan batters. Afghanistan 104 in 16 overs.

Pakistan left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz (left) celebrates after dismissing Afghanistan's Karim Janat. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Third wicket down

Third wicket down as Janat caugt by Fakhar Zaman off leg-spinner Mohammed Nawaz. Pakistan need wickets at this stage as Afghan batters Janat and Ibrahim are consolidating the innings after losing two quick wickets. Though Pakistani spinners Nawaz and Shaddab have managed to slower the run rate and are not allowing batters to hit freely, Afghan batters can prove dangerous in the slog overs if they have plenty of wickets during the last five overs. Afghanistan 79/3 in 12 overs.

Afghanistan try to consolidate

Afghanistan are rebuilding through Karim Janat (15) and Ibrahim Zadran (16) after the loss of openers Ramanullah Gurbaz and Hazratullah Zazai. But the run rate has dropped appreciably as spinners Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz tied them down. Afghanistan were 72/2 at the end of 10 overs, which means they haven’t lost any wickets in the last four overs. The wickets will come in handy in the later part of the innings.

Pakistan claim 2 wickets in the powerplay

Pakistan stifled the early exuberance from Afghanistan with a couple of wickets. Afghanistan were 48/2 at the end of the powerplay, having lost openers Ramanullah Gurbaz and Hazratullah Zazai. Gurbaz had electrified the Afghan fans with a brace of sixes from a Mohammad Hasnain over. But Haris Rauf and Hasnain struck back, allowing Pakistan to regain control of the game.

Gurbaz wicket
Pakistan pacer dismissing Afghanistan opener Ramanullah Gurbaz. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Putting pressure on batters

Pakistan pacers stuck back after flying start by Aghanistan batters in the first six overs - power play. Haris Ruaf got the big wicket of Rehmanullah, who was looking dangerous as scored 17 runs in 12 balls with two sixes. Then Mohammed Hasnain bowled Hazratullah with a slower delivery putting pressure back on Afghanistan batters. Spinner Shaddab has come back to attack and help slow down the run rate. Afghanistan 53/2 in seven overs.

The toss and the teams

Pakistan have won the toss and elected to bowl. They are fielding an unchanged side.

There’s one change for Afghanistan: allrounder Azmatullah Omarzai, who missed the last game through illness, returns in place of Samiullah Shinwari.

Pakistan: Babar Azam (captain), Mohammad Rizwan (wicketkeeper), Fakhar Zaman, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Shadab Khan, Asif Ali, Mohammad Nawaz, Naseem Shah, Haris Rauf, and Mohammad Hasnain

Afghanistan: Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wicketkeeper), Ibrahim Zadran, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi (captain), Karim Janat, Rashid Khan, Azmatullah Omarzai, Naveen-ul-Haq, Mujeeb-ur-Rahman, and Fazalhaq Farooqi.

A win both teams need desperately

Pakistan and Afghanistan want a win desperately for different reasons. A victory in the Super 4 game would virtually seal Pakistan’s spot in the DP World Asia Cup final. Afghanistan need a win to keep alive their slender chances, having lost to Sri Lanka. India too would be rooting for an Afghan victory to give themselves a mathematical chance of progressing in the tournament.

That is unlikely to happen at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, given Pakistan’s depth in batting and firepower in bowling. The Afghans fared well in the first two games, but were outplayed by Sri Lanka. It’s difficult to come off from a loss, and their task is made tougher by a quality Pakistan team.