By Ehsan Qureshi in Dubai
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
Pakistan inched closer towards claiming spot in the semifinal rounds of ICC T20 World Cup with tension and drama packed five-wicket victory over Afghanistan at Dubai International Cricket Stadium on October 29.
For the second match running, Asif Ali emerged as the hero when he hoisted Karim Janat for four sixes in the 19th over to seal the fate of the dramatic match in front of an enthusiastic and vociferous crowd. They shouted Pakistan Zindabad and Pakistan Aa Gaya Maidan Main as Pakistan completed their win after a few hiccups.
The new finisher Asif smashed an unbeaten 25, under pressure, after facing just seven balls in blink of an eye. Pakistan had lost Fakhar Zaman (30), Muhammad Hafeez (10) and Shoaib Malik (19) as the asking rate kept mounting.
The Pakistan captain, Babar Azam, played a decent knock of fifty but he could not finish the game. Having successfully reviewed leg-before decision which had gone against him, he was cleaned by the same bowler, Rashid Khan, while attempting a cross-batted swipe.
Earlier Afghanistan staged a grand recovery, after having been reduced to 35 for four at the end of six-over power play, to post a competitive total of 147 for seven in their 20 overs. Skipper Muhammad Nabi and Najibullah Zadran lifted them from a precarious 76 for six in 13th over with a fighting unbroken 71-runs stand off 43 balls.
The Afghanistan contingent, which outnumbered Pakistanis in the stands, was silenced by brilliant performance of Imad Wasim, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Haris Rauf. They removed the dangerous power hitter Hazratullah Zazai for five-ball duck and Muhammad Shahzad for only eight in first 16 balls to put them under pressure. When Rehmanullah Gulbaz and Gulbadin Naib went for ten runs apiece, the Afghanistan batting was in tatters. But experienced Nabi and Gulbadin stood firm against spin cum peace attack to keep them in the contest.
Due to the intense rivalry between two neighboring countries, the UAE Police remained on high alert in order to avoid any untoward incident. The match was contested in a tense atmosphere as supporters of both teams expected their respective countries to run away with the game.