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October 29, 2021 T20 World Cup: Babar, Asif shine as Pakistan consolidates top spot in Group 2
Babar Azam’s clinical 51 off 47 and Asif Ali’s seven-ball 25 helped Pakistan deny a spirited Afghanistan and maintain its 100 per cent win record with a five-wicket victory in the Super 12s at the ICC Twenty20 World Cup in Dubai on Friday.
Needing 26 off the last three, Naveen ul Haq had Shoaib Malik caught behind to leave Pakistan five down for 124. But Asif’s sensational four sixes off Karim Janat in the 19th over sealed the chase in Pakistan’s favour.
Defending 147, Mujeeb Ur Rahman had Mohammad Rizwan caught at deep square-leg. But Fakhar Zaman hit Mohammad Nabi for a four and a six in the next over to calm the nerves. Mujeeb, meanwhile, bowled his four overs on the trot at the top to end with one for 14. Zaman and Babar kept nudging the ones and twos with ease.
With 76 required off the last 10 overs, Rashid Khan was on, finally. Babar survived an lbw call off him on review. But off the first ball of the next over, Zaman missed a sweep and was adjudged lbw off Nabi. Mohammed Hafeez fell to Rashid shortly after. Malik joined Babar, who brought up a 45-ball half-century. He was clean bowled by Rashid (two for 26).
Earlier, Afghanistan won the toss and decided to bat. Shaheen Afridi’s pacy first over ruffled Hazratullah Zazai and Mohammad Shahzad. With two right-handers at the crease, left-arm spinner Imad Wasim came into the attack. The move paid dividends as Zazai was caught by Haris Rauf off a top-edge. Afridi then accounted for Shahzad in the next over as Afghanistan lost both openers early.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Asghar Afghan tried to up the ante in Imad’s second over with two big sixes and a four. But Haris, in his first over, took a sharp return catch to remove Afghan and also bowled the joint-fastest delivery of the tournament at 153kph. In the next over, Hasan Ali had Gurbaz caught. Afghanistan was 49 for four after six overs.
Najibullah Zadran gave the boisterous Afghan fans something to cheer about with two delightful fours off Shadab Khan. But with boundaries still proving to be few and far between, Janat, at the other end, perished trying to go big against Imad (two for 25). Leg-spinner Shadab tightened the noose further with the wicket of Zadran to leave Afghanistan 76 for six in 13 overs.
Nabi and Gulbadin Naib eyed a late surge. Gulbadin struck 19 off Hasan’s last over with two fours and a six. The two then got stuck into Haris and clobbered 15 off his fourth. Afridi’s last over went for seven as Nabi and Naib’s unbeaten 71-run stand took Afghanistan to a fighting score. But it wasn’t enough in the end.
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