Dubai: Can anyone stop Asif Ali? It seems not as the explosive batsman won the second match in a row for Pakistan in an exciting T20 match against Afghanistan at the ‘ring of the fire’ the Dubai Cricket Stadium on Friday night.
Asif's 27 runs in 7 balls snatched the match from Afghanistan who had started sensing victory with Pakistan requiring 24 runs with 12 balls remaining. But Ali took advantage of the shorter boundary and hit medium pacer Karim Janet for four sixes in an over to finish the match in the 19th over. He deserved to win the player of the match trophy as he entertained the crowd and cricket fans around the world with his delightful innings full of sixes. Pakistan won the match by five wickets and look set to enter the next round comfortably.
Skipper Babar Azam steered Pakistan’s batting once again with ‘Mr consistent’ scoring 51 runs denying his wicket until the 16th over.
Afghanistan came back into the game when Azam was bowled by the magical Rashid Khan on the last delivery of his four over spell. Malik contributed 19 precious runs on 15 balls while left arm batter Fakhar Zaman hit 30 from 25 deliveries. It is good to see him in good touch.
Experienced Mohammed Hafeez got 10 runs off 10 balls before he was caught while trying to hit Rashid for six. Pakistan should try another explosive batsman Haider Ali who has been waiting to show his talent to the world.
Skipper Azam and Zaman consolidated the Pakistani innings after the early loss of in-form Muhammad Rizwan in the third over. This is the sign of big players who play as the match demands. They put their heads down and kept the score board ticking over with lots of singles and occasional boundaries.
Pakistan pacers who started off very well showing the top Afghan batters to the pavilion failed to contain captain Nabi (35 in 32 balls) and hard hitter Gulbadin Naib who scored a brilliant 35 in 25 balls. Hassan Ali gave them enough width to hit him for 22 runs in the 18th over of the innings. Their slogging continued in the 19th over when they hit Haris Rauf for 15 runs. However, left-arm pacer Afridi choked them in the last over with his immaculate yorkers and slow deliveries. Brilliant partnership between Nabi and Naib 74 in 48 deliveries brought Afghanistan back in the match giving a decent total to their bowlers to defend.
Keep pressure on
Pakistani spinners bowled very well as well with Imad conceding just 25 runs with two wickets and Shaddab giving away 22 runs with one wicket. Azam should have given bowl to spinner Mohammed Hafeez or Malik to keep the pressure on.
In the initial overs, Afghan batters were hit by the sheer pace of Pakistani bowlers including Shaheen Shah Afridi and Harif Rauf who averaged speed to over 140 kph.
Pakistani pacers continued to get wickets and keep the pressure on Afghan batters who tried to hit big in a bid to accelerate the run rate but were denied to swing their arms freely by Pakistan bowlers. Both the teams know each other very well as Afghan players have been playing in the Pakistan domestic cricket quite frequently.