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June 30, 2019

Shaheen, Imad sizzle as Pakistan survive Afghan scare

Sports

June 30, 2019

LEEDS, England: It was a cliffhanger as Pakistan lived dangerously before edging bottom-placed Afghanistan by three wickets to continue their push for a World Cup semi-final spot here at Headingley on Wednesday.

A predominantly Pakistani crowd erupted with joy as Imad Wasim, Pakistan’s biggest hero of the day with an unbeaten 49 from 52 balls, hit Afghan captain Gulbadin Naib for a four in the covers to seal victory in yet another must-win game. The win catapulted Pakistan to the fourth place on the points table with nine points from eight matches.

It was frenzied atmosphere and there was even a pitch invasion by some ecstatic fans as Pakistan managed to overcome a lethal Afghan spin attack spearheaded by Mohammad Nabi, who took 2-23 from his 10 overs. The spin quartet that included Mujeeb Ur Rahman (2-34) Rashid Khan (1-50) and Samiullah Shinwari (0-32) took five Pakistani wickets giving away just 159 from 38 overs.

The only weak link in the Afghan attack was Naib and Pakistan targeted the medium pacer, milking his 9.4 overs for 73 runs.

The script should have been completely different.

Pakistan, who were on a roll after beating South Africa and New Zealand in their previous two games, seemed to be on course of a comfortable victory after Shaheen Shah Afridi took 4-47 to restrict Afghanistan to 227-9.

However, on a dry Headingley wicket that was offering plenty of assistance to the spinners, Pakistan knew they needed to be careful.

But they were unable to do so.

In fact they came back from jaws of what could have been a catastrophic defeat thanks to Imad, who played the lead role in a rear guard action after Pakistan were reduced to 156-6 in 39 overs. He added 50 off 48 balls with Shadab Khan (11 from 17) and then 30 with Wahab Riaz (15* from 9) to steer Pakistan to victory.

Earlier, the Pakistanis were suicidal in their run-chase. 228 wasn’t a big target but on a wicket that seemed tailor-made for the spin heavy Afghan bowling attack everybody knew that Pakistan won’t get there comfortably. The batters didn’t help their own cause either with Babar Azam (45 from 51 balls) the only top order batsman who didn’t seen unnerved by the occasion.

There were situations from where Pakistan could have comfortably chased down the total despite the dismissal of opener Fakhar Zaman of the second ball of the innings.

They were looking set when the innings was 15.5 overs and the score was 72-1. But it was then that Imam-ul-Haq had a brain freeze. He charged at Nabi, completely missed a quicker one and Ikram Alikhil carried out an efficient stumping. It was the fifth time in this World Cup, that Imam, who was looking settled on a 51-ball 36, squandered a fine start.

The second twist came after Haris Sohail (27 from 57 balls) and Mohammad Hafeez had negotiated stormy waters to take Pakistan to 121-3 in 29 overs. By then Hafeez had faced 35 balls for his 19 and was looking set. But a tame slice towards point of Mujeeb ended his innings. It was yet another disappointing outing for Hafeez, who is yet to really fire in this tournament apart from an 84 against England.

The third twist came when Sarfraz Ahmed (19 from 35 balls) was dismissed in a suicidal run-out. Pakistan were 156-5 and the captain was in a good position to see them past the finish line. Sarfraz hit Rashid to point and you could see from miles that it was a single as the ball had gone towards Najibullah, the quickest of the Afghan fielders. Sarfraz thought he could fetch two but fell way short.

Things could have been even tough for Pakistan without Shaheen’s impressive spell.

For the second match in a row, Mohammad Amir wasn’t among the wicket-takers for Pakistan. And for second time in a row, it was the 19-year-old Shaheen, who became the youngest player in World Cup history to take a four-wicket haul.

While Amir wasn’t rewarded with any wicket, finishing with figures of 10-1-41-0 – his first wicketless outing in this World Cup – Shaheen was in full flow as he followed his three-wicket haul against New Zealand with another impressive showing.

The Afghans were never in the hunt for a big total after opting to bat first on a bright sunny morning on a wicket that seemed to have been imported from Asia.

With Shaheen in top gear and Imad Wasim (2-48) and Wahab Riaz (2-29) also chipping, the Afghans were never really able to put up any worthwhile partnerships. Asghar Afghan (42 from 35 balls) and Najibullah Zardan (42 from 54 balls) were the top scorers while opener Rahmat Shah (35 from 43 balls) was the only other batsman with any substantial contribution.

Afghanistan were off to a flying start as openers Rahmat Shah and Gulbadin Naib put on 27 from 27 balls before Shaheen got into action. The left-armer was greeted by Gulbadin with two fours when he replaced Imad Wasim but he responded with two wickets of successive deliveries. The Afghan captain was the first to go as he edged one to Sarfraz Ahmed behind the stumps. But umpire Nigel Llong turned down the appeal. Pakistan went or a review and the decision was overturned.

Next ball it was the prolific Hashmatullah Shahidi who fell trying to hit an angling delivery through the leg side only to balloon it towards where Imad Wasim took a comfortable catch.

Shaheen’s third victim was Najibullah Zardan, Afghanistan’s top-scorer. Just when the Afghans were bringing their innings on track, Najibullah tried to hit Shaheen through extra cover only to drag the ball onto off stump.

Shaheen’s party continued when he dismissed Rashid Khan with a slower ball. He bowled almost an offcutter beating Rashid all end up and Fakhar Zaman made it 210-8 by taking a simple catch at mid-off.

Pakistan wrapped up the Afghan innings by taking their last four wickets within a span of 25 runs to keep the target under 230 on a tricky wicket.

Score Board

Afghanistan won toss

Afghanistan

Rahmat Shah c Babar b Imad 35

*Gulbadin Naib c Sarfraz b Shaheen 15

Hashmatullah Shahidi c Imad b Shaheen 0

†Ikram Alikhil c Hafeez b Imad 24

Asghar Afghan b Shadab 42

Mohammad Nabi c Amir b Wahab 16

Najibullah Zadran b Shaheen 42

Samiullah Shinwari not out 19

Rashid Khan c Fakhar b Shaheen 8

Hamid Hassan b Wahab 1

Mujeeb Ur Rahman not out 7

Extras (lb8, w10) 18

Total (9 wickets, 50 overs) 227

Fall: 1-27, 2-27, 3-57, 4-121, 5-125, 6-167, 7-202, 8-210, 9-219

Bowling: Imad 10-0-48-2; Amir 10-1-41-0; Shaheen 10-0-47-4; Hafeez 2-0-10-0; Wahab 8-0-29-2; Shadab 10-0-44-1

Pakistan

Fakhar Zaman lbw b Mujeeb 0

Imam-ul-Haq st Alikhil b Nabi 36

Babar Azam b Nabi 45

Mohammad Hafeez c Shahidi b Mujeeb 19

Haris Sohail lbw b Rashid 27

*†Sarfraz Ahmed run out 18

Imad Wasim not out 49

Shadab Khan run out 11

Wahab Riaz not out 15

Extras (b1, lb4, w5) 10

Total (7 wickets, 49.4 overs) 230

Did not bat: Mohammad Amir, Shaheen Shah Afridi

Fall: 1-0, 2-72, 3-81, 4-121, 5-142, 6-156, 7-206

Bowling: Mujeeb 10-1-34-2; Hassan 2-0-13-0; Naib 9.4-0-73-0; Nabi 10-0-23-2; Rashid 10-0-50-1; Shinwari 8-0-32-0

Result: Pakistan won by 3 wickets

Man of the Match: Imad Wasim (Pakistan)

Umpires: Nigel Llong (England) and Paul Wilson (Australia). TV Umpires: Chris Gaffaney (New Zealand). Match Referee: Chris Broad (England)

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