Leeds: Pakistan have kept their hopes of entering the semi-finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup alive after a three-wicket win over Afghanistan, thanks to medium pacer Shaheen Afridi four-wicket haul followed by Babar Azam and Imad Wasim's valiant 45 and 49-run knock.
After restricting the winless Afghanistan at a paltry 227 runs, the Green Brigade were once in a critical position after losing four wickets for 121 runs. The match went down to the final over and enroute, it was Imad's innings and Wahab Riaz valuable 15 off nine balls which handed Pakistan a much-needed win.
Pakistan skipper Sarfaraz Ahmad felt the win was a result of his team coming together as a unit. Speaking at the post-match presentation, he said: "Everyone chipped in and I think it is a team effort. We all know that after four games, it won't be easy to win all the next four games, but we are taking it match by match.
"In the previous game, the way Babar Azam and Harris Sohail handled the pressure was really good and today the way Imad handled the pressure and in the end, Shadab and the way Wahab Riaz batted, I think his 15 runs were very important."
Sarfaraz also lauded Afridi's effort and said the medium-pacer is improving with each game. "We all know he (Shaheen Afridi) is a good bowler and he is improving day by day and I think he is working hard and he bowled really well today. All the other bowlers - Wahab (Riaz), (Mohammed) Amir, Shadab (Khan) and Imad - also bowled well today and I believe all of them are in good nick."
Pakistan are yet to cement their semi-final berth with a lot depending on the tie between India and England. Pakistan have nine points from eight games while the hosts have eight from seven. The Green Brigade will have to win it's last league game and should hope that England must lose atleast one of their two remaining games.
Speaking on it, the Pakistan skipper said: "Obviously we all are watching (India vs England game) but we are not thinking about it and hopefully the better team wins."
He also thanked the Pakistani fans, who were present in large numbers here to cheer for their side. "Thanks to almighty. Thanks to all the supporters, they have been cheering us from ball one and I think this is a great win for us," he added.
Meanwhile, Imad, who was adjudged 'Player of the Match', said it was difficult to play Rashid Khan and other spinners as a result he planned to go after the Afghan pace attack.
"When I went, Rashid was bowling brilliantly. Couldn't pick him to be honest. Just hung in there. Decided to play fifty overs. He (Naib) was the only bowler who could've been targeted to be honest," he expressed.
"They've got world class spinners. Plan was to attack when fast bowler comes in," Imad concluded.
Pakistan will now face Bangladesh on July 5 while Afghanistan will take on West Indies a day before.