Pakistan held their nerve in a low-scoring thriller to reach the DP World Asia Cup final with a one-wicket win over Afghanistan at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Wednesday.
Babar Azam’s team will meet Sri Lanka in the final on September 11 as their victory on Wednesday knocked India and Afghanistan, two teams without a win in the Super Four, out of the tournament.
Having restricted Afghanistan to 129 for six after captain Babar elected to bowl, Pakistan needed to dig deep into their reserves to eke out a thrilling win.
Afghanistan fought back as left-arm pacers Fazalhaq Farooqi (3-31), Fareed Ahmad (3-31), and leg-spinner Rashid Khan (4-0-25-2) rocked the Pakistani batting with wickets at regular intervals.
When Asif Ali (16 off 8 balls), the last recognized batsman, became the ninth man to fall in the 19th over, it seemed Afghanistan would pull off the biggest victory in their cricket history.
But with 11 required off the last over with just one wicket in hand, number 10 Naseem Shah hit the first two balls from Farooqi out of the ground to take Pakistan home amid incredible scenes at the Sharjah stadium.
Earlier, Pakistan bowlers restricted Afghanistan to 129 for six.
After Hazratullah Zazai (21 off 17 balls) and Rahmanullah Gurbaz (17 off 11 balls) gave the Afghans a good start, sharing 36 runs for the first wicket in 3.5 overs, Pakistan hit back in style, thanks to some smart bowling changes from captain Babar Azam who had earlier won the toss and put the opposition in.
Afghanistan never recovered after they lost their openers in quick succession with Haris Rauf (4-0-26-2) and Mohammad Hasnain (4-0-34-1) being the successful bowlers.
Ibrahim Zadran (35 off 36 balls) tried his best to revive the innings but the regular fall of wickets in the middle overs saw the team struggling at 104-6 in the 17th over.
But Rashid Khan (18 not out off 15 balls) and Azmatullah Omarzai (10 not out off 10 balls) added a valuable 25 runs for the seventh wicket.
Pakistan beat Afghanistan by one wicket.
Afghanistan 129-6 in 20 overs (Ibrahim Zadran 35, Hazratullah Zazai 21; Haris Rauf 2-26, Naseem Shah 1-19).
Pakistan 131-9 in 19.2 overs (Shadab Khan 36, Iftikhar Ahmed 30; Asif Ali 16, Naseem Shah 14 not out; Fareed Ahmad 3-31, Fazalhaq Farooqi 3-31, Rashid Khan 2-25)
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