Pakistan’s tailenders kept their nerves and edged out Afghanistan by one wicket in a tense high-scoring second one-day international on Thursday.
Naseem Shah (10 not out) edged seamer Fazalhaq Farooqi for a winning boundary off the penultimate ball as Pakistan reached 302-9 and got a decisive 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz’s epic 151 and a meaningful 80 by his opening partner Ibrahim Zadran had earlier provided Afghanistan a formidable total of 300-5.
“All credit to the boys,” Pakistan captain Babar Azam said. “We just tried to build the partnership when me and Imam were playing, just wanted to play long and see where we stand after 40 overs. We knew we could chase 80 or 90 in the last 10 overs.”
Shadab Khan, who made 48 off 35 balls, brought Pakistan back in the chase off the last two balls in the penultimate over when he smashed two full tosses of fast bowler Abdul Rahman for a boundary and a six.
Needing 11 off the final over, Farooqi ran out Shadab at the non-striker’s end as the batter moved out of his crease before the bowler had bowled. But Shah and No. 11 Haris Rauf kept their nerves and shattered Afghanistan’s dream to beat Pakistan for the first time in an ODI.
“It is hurting because we had enough runs, but at the last moment they took the game away from us,” Afghanistan skipper Hashmatullah Shahid said. “There were some easy balls (in the death overs) to the batsmen and they smashed it. We weren’t able to control the pressure.”
Earlier, Gurbaz and Zadran raised Afghanistan’s second highest-ever stand for any wicket in an ODI when they raised an authoritative 227-run opening-wicket partnership.
It was a sea change in Afghanistan’s batting performance after it was bundled out for 59 inside the 20 overs in the first game on Tuesday and lost by 142 runs.
Both young openers played almost 40 overs and scored at a brisk pace on a wicket which had some grass and bounce. Gurbaz was more aggressive of the two and didn’t hesitate to use his feet against Shah and Shaheen Afridi before he struggled with pain in his forearm soon after completing his half century off 72 balls.
He needed a further 50 balls to complete his century and then upped the scoring rate by smashing fast bowler Haris Rauf for four successive boundaries in one over. Zadran missed out on his deserved century when he holed out in the deep off legspinner Usama Mir after hitting six fours and two sixes.
An exhausted Gurbaz finally got a thick edge off Afridi in his return spell in the 45th over. Gurbaz’s run-a-ball career-best knock included 14 fours and three sixes but Afghanistan was always in sight to post a challenging total.
Openers Imam-ul-Haq (91) and captain Babar Azam (53) kept Pakistan in the run-chase by combining in a 118-run second wicket stand after Fakhar Zaman (30) was bowled by Farooqi.
Ace legspinner Rashid Khan should have got the wickets of both batters, but first he dropped a low catch of Imam off his own bowling and then Mohammad Nabi couldn’t react in time in the lone slip when he had a chance of ending Babar’s knock.
Farooqi turned the game around when he got the big wicket of Babar in the 31st over as the Pakistan skipper holed out at mid-on soon after completing his half century. Nabi then chipped in with two wickets in one over before he took a well judged running catch at mid-on to get Iftikhar Ahmed dismissed in the 47th over.
But Shadab and Shah’s late assault provided Pakistan a nail-biting victory as Afghanistan seamers bowled wayward in the death overs.
The final match of the series will be played on Saturday at Colombo before both teams compete in next week’s Asia Cup.
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