Dubai: The scoreline of Pakistan beating Afghanistan by five wickets in their Super-12 match at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium cannot surely do justice to the twists and turns that it provided along the way in front of a lively crowd.
Mohammed Nabi’s men showed why they are regarded as potentially a dangerous team in this format, but also exposed their frailties against a quality opposition. There will be many ifs and buts as to what would have happened if Nabi had introduced his chief destroyer Rashid earlier than the 10th over, especially when his off spinner Mujeeb-ur Rehman already gave him a breakthrough by removing opener Mohammed Rizwan inside the powerplay.
Defending a competitive yet modest target of 148, the Afghan skipper relied on their strengths when he and Mujeeb opened the bowling. They managed to put the shackles on Pakistan batsmen but then introduced two of their inexperienced seam bowlers: Naveen ul Haq and Karim Janat and the pressure eased on Babar Azam and Fakhar Zaman soon after.
Janat, who bowled the 19th over with the match still evenly poised, will want to forget this match in a hurry as Asif Ali took him to the cleaners with four sixes to finish off the game.
Afghanistan had their redeeming moments after initially looking out of sorts against an energetic and high quality pace attack when they succumbed to 76 for six and it looked doubtful if they can get past the 100-mark. Nabi (35 off 32 balls) and Gulbadan Naib (34 off 24 balls) took advantage of a softening ball and hit some lusty blows as they put up an invaluable 71-run stand for the seventh wicket.
In hindsight, this Afghanistan team may not be able to get past the Super-12 stage but they have given indication of turning party-poopers against the likes of India and New Zealand.