The ongoing ODI World Cup might be one of the most unpredictable editions of the quadrennial showpiece. Afghanistan underlined the very statement as it sprang a surprise at the M.A. Chidambaram stadium in Chennai when it registered an eight-wicket victory against Pakistan on Monday.
Pakistan, after winning the toss and electing to bat first, posted a daunting total of 282/7 on board, thanks to a late flourish from Iftikhar Ahmed who scored a quick-fire 27-ball 40.
A huge total on its back and the fact that Afghanistan has never won against Pakistan in ODIs made the chase even more tricky. But openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran soaked in all the pressure and laid the platform for their side with a commanding 128-ball 130 partnership up front.
“We broke the chase down to 10-over splits. And with the start that Gurbaz and Ibrahim gave us, we were well ahead of where we thought we should have to be. And it sort of allowed us a little bit more breathing room come the end of the game,” said Afghanistan coach Jonathan Trott after the win.
“It made sure that we had the opportunity to finish the game off in the 49th over and we did. So, that was great,” he added.
This was not the first time that Afghanistan made heads turn in this tournament. The Hashmatullah Shahidi-led side registered a whopping 69-run victory against reigning champion England a while back. Contrary to popular opinion, Trott does not believe these wins can be termed as upsets.
“I think I’m not sure I’d say upset if I’m honest. It’s a disservice to the guys in the changing room. I think maybe you’d say underdogs or whatever, but it’s not an upset. We played well, these guys work hard and they deserve to win.” said the 42-year-old.
Apart from the final five overs, where the bowlers conceded 60 runs, the Afghanistan bowling attack, with four spinners in the 11, was as good as it could get. Noor Ahmad was conspicuous as he completed his quota of 10 overs with three wickets, giving away 49 runs.
“Well, I think whenever Afghanistan plays, the way the spinners bowl is going to be important. I thought we got it right with Noor today coming in the way that he bowled, certainly for a youngster as well,” said Trott.
“We’ve just got to make sure we keep playing good cricket and not get too far ahead of ourselves” he concluded
This loss was very hard, says Pakistan skipper Babar
On the other end of the spectrum, Pakistan is on the brink of elimination with three consecutive losses.
Lack of intent in the middle overs while batting, misfielding and a bowling unit which couldn’t perform up to its potential were the key takeaways from this clash for the Asian giants.
“This loss was very hard. We planned to total 280-290. And when we achieved that, I think we were not up to the mark in bowling and fielding. You have to bowl well and field well,” said Babar after the crushing loss.
There can be no room for error in the forthcoming matches for Pakistan and Babar says his team is wary of the situation and will do its best to get back from the downward spiral.
“We will try to play our best cricket till the end. There are a lot of matches left, so we will try to win all the matches. We will try to overcome our mistakes,” the Pakistan skipper said.
Pakistan’s bowling line-up has failed to live up to expectations despite being regarded as one of the strongest in the world. This was made clear when Babar’s bowlers failed to stop an above-par total on a slow wicket, further compounding the side’s issues.
Touching upon this topic, Babar said: “We are missing Naseem (Shah) a lot. But apart from that, our bowling lineup is one of the best. But I think we are not able to click. Sometimes we do well in bowling, we don’t do well in batting. When we do well in batting, we don’t do it in fielding.”
Pakistan will face South Africa next on October 27 in Chennai.
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