Pakistan aced a last-over thriller to beat Afghanistan by one wicket in Sharjah and qualify for the final of the Asia Cup. Wednesday's result means India and Afghanistan are now out, and Sri Lanka will face Pakistan in the summit clash.
Chasing 130, Pakistan lost captain Babar Azam and Fakhar Zaman early. Mujeeb Ur Rahman (0 for 12), a Powerplay specialist, spun the ball both ways and bowled three overs inside the first six for just five runs. When Rashid Khan (two for 25) came on in the seventh over, Pakistan was 35 for two.
Rashid unfurled his array of leg spinners and googlies in a brief but edge-of-the-seat faceoff with Mohammad Rizwan; the latter survived a huge lbw appeal off Rashid in the seventh over only to be given out in a similar fashion in Rashid's next over.
Pakistan was 52 for three after 10 overs. But Shadab Khan (36, 26b 1x4 3x6), promoted up the order, turbocharged the chase with his power-hitting. Shadab's 42-run stand with Iftikhar Ahmed gave stability before Fazalhaq Farooqi turned the chase on its head by getting two wickets in the 18th over.
Needing 11 to win off six balls, Naseem Shah struck two back-to-back sixes off Farooqi to seal the chase.
Earlier in the evening, Rahmanullah Gurbaz pulled Mohammad Hasnain for two back-to-back sixes in the second over. But soon, Gurbaz was walking back as thousands of Pakistan fans shouted themselves hoarse when he was clean bowled by Haris Rauf (two for 26).
Afghanistan ended the PowerPlay on 48 for two. With two right-handers Karim Janat and Ibrahim Zadran at the crease, leggie Shadab came into the attack and with left-arm spinner, Mohammad Nawaz, dried up the boundaries.
The pressure told after the drinks break as Janat holed out to Zaman off Nawaz. Left-hander Najibullah Zadran then smacked Shadab Khan for a six, the first maximum off Shadab's bowling this tournament.
But Shadab got Najibullah caught off the last ball of his over. Rashid struck some lusty blows but in the end, Afghanistan was beaten to the finish line by the barest of margins.
Brief scores: Afghanistan: 129 for 6 in 20 overs (Ibrahim Zadran 35; Haris Rauf 2/26) lost to Pakistan: 131 for 9 in 19.2 overs (Shadab Khan 36, Iftikhar Ahmed 30; Fazalhaq Farooqi 3/31, Fareed Ahmad 3/31, Rashid Khan 2/25) by one wicket.