Asia Cup 2022: This reminded me of Javed Miandad's six in Sharjah, Azam says of Naseem's heroics

Pakistan reach final with nail-biting one-wicket win and knock India out of the tournament


Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Wed 7 Sep 2022, 11:59 PM

Words will never do justice to the absolute magic Pakistan and Afghanistan conjured on an unforgettable Wednesday evening at the historic Sharjah Cricket Stadium.

With only 130 runs required to win and reach the final of the DP World Asia Cup, the experienced Pakistani batsmen fell like ninepins amid some fascinating skills from Afghan left-arm pacers, Fazalhaq Farooqi ((3-31) and Fareed Ahmad (3/31), and their two world-class spinners, Rashid Khan (2/25) and Mujeeb Ur Rahman (4-0-12-0).

And tempers flared when Asif Ali (16 off 8 balls), the last recognized batsman, became the ninth man to fall after a mis-timed pull against Ahmad in the 19th over.

Ali raised his bat in anger after being given a fiery send-off by the bowler in the middle of the pitch as the umpires rushed to pull the two players apart.

Naseem Shah, the number 10, remained calm in the middle of the chaos, and now it was he and number 11 Mohammad Hasnain, who were standing between Afghanistan and their greatest triumph in history.

Afghan skipper Mohammad Nabi turned to Farooqi, easily the best bowler of the match with his pace, variations and yorkers, to defend 11 runs off the final over with Naseem at strike.

But Naseem, Pakistan’s latest fast bowling sensation, hit the first two balls, both full tosses, from Farooqi out of the ground to script a one-wicket win in the engrossing battle.

As the match-winning six flew over the long off boundary, Afghans dropped to their knees and Pakistani players ran on to the field to celebrate with the roaring Naseem amid incredible scenes in the stands.

Babar Azam’s team will now 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.

Skipper Babar was lost for words after Pakistan reached home in the most dramatic of fashions.

“To be honest, it was quite a tensed environment in the dressing room. We couldn't build partnerships like in the last few games, but the way Naseem finished it, you could see the vibe after that,” he said at the post-match presentation ceremony.

“I have seen Naseem bat like this, so I had a little bit of belief. This reminded me of Javed Miandad's six in Sharjah.”

Babar’s fourth failure

Pakistan’s chase got off to a nightmarish start when skipper Babar fell for a golden duck, his fourth failure of the tournament, when he was trapped in front of the wicket by Farooqi in the second ball of the innings.

Pakistan kept looking to build a big partnership, but the Afghan bowlers managed to spoil their attempt every time.

But eventually, it was the 42-run partnership for the fourth wicket between Shadab Khan (36, 26 balls, 1 four, 3 sixes) and Iftikhar Ahmed (30 off 33 balls) that allowed the tail-enders to take the match into the final over.

Earlier, 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.

But Pakistan hit back in style, thanks to some smart bowling changes from captain Babar 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.

Rashid (18 not out off 15 balls) and Azmatullah Omarzai (10 not out off 10 balls) then added a valuable 25 runs for the seventh wicket to take the score to 129.

In the end, it wasn’t enough as Naseem sealed it with a Miandad-like six in the final over.

“The boys were brilliant with the ball and the field. But again we didn't finish well, we didn't control our nerves at the end. But we didn't give up at any stage,” said Afghan captain Nabi whose team now would look to finish their campaign with another spirited show against India in Dubai on Thursday.

Brief scores

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)

Toss: Pakistan

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