Afghanistan set Pakistan a 258-run target to chase in their Asia Cup 2018 Super Four match in Abu Dhabi. The match was decided in the very last over, as Pakistan chased the target with only three balls to spare.
Pakistan started the innings steadily and took minimal risks, more so due to the loss of Fakhar Zaman early in the innings. Zaman was adjudged leg before wicket without troubling the scorers.
At the end of the first 15 overs, Pakistan had managed to put only 57 runs on the board for the loss of one wicket.
Opener Imam-ul-Haq partnered with Babar Azam to build a decent second-wicket partnership of 154 runs. Imam scored 80 before being run out, while Babar looked steady for his 66.
But it was Shoaib Malik who starred for Pakistan, scoring a blistering of 51 runs off 43 balls to see his team through.
After Asghar Afghan, the Afghanistan captain, won the toss and decided to bat first, Mohammad Shahzad and Ihsanullah opened their innings, whereas Usman Shinwari and Shaheen Afridi shared the new ball for Pakistan.
With the southpaw pacers bowling a tight line and length, Afghan pacers found runs hard to come by in the first five overs, and managed just 20 runs. The lack of runs did force them to play some rash strokes but fortunately for them their mistakes didn't convert into dismissals.
Pakistan's old demons in the field reared their head in the 8th over when Ishanullah was dropped on back-to-back Afridi deliveries, first by Fakhar Zaman and then Shinwari.
The breakthrough finally came in the 9th over when Ihsanullah was caught and bowled by Mohammad Nawaz. While the bowler deserved credit, it would be unfair to not mention the pressure captain Sarfraz Ahmed had created for the batsman from behind the wicket with his nonstop vocals in the buildup.
On the first ball of the 11th, Nawaz had Shahzad caught behind, which, which when combined with his wicket on the last ball of the previous over, put him on a hat-trick; it didn't happen though.
Runs were already hard to come by, and the twin blow did not help the Afghan cause. By the end of 15 overs, they were lagging at 57-2, with Hashmatullah Shahidi and Rahmat Shah in the middle.
The pair continued their cautious batting for the next five overs, taking the score to 74-0 at the end of the 20th.
With boundaries a rarity, Shahidi and Shah did the wise thing by relying on singles and doubles, taking to score to 93-2 after 25 overs.
Their 63-run stand finally came to and end in the 26th over when Nawaz repeated his caught-and-bowled trick again, this time sending back Shah (36 off 51 balls) to pick up his third wicket.
Afghan captain walked in to join Shahidi but their steady, unspectacular approach did not change. At the end of the 30th over, they were 116-3.
In the 36th over, the cautious approach was finally dispensed with for a more adventurous one, with Asghar hitting a four and a six to an otherwise excellent Nawaz.
Both Shahidi and Asghar brought up their half-centuries in the 40th over, at the end of which there score was 170-3.
After Sohail dropped the game's third match off Afridi's bowling, the debutant took the matters in his own hands, bowling out the Afghan captain Asghar (67) in the 42nd over.
The next over saw another catch dropped — the game's fourth until that point — with the guilty party being Afridi himself.
Afridi got his second of the night in the 44th over, with the dangerous Mohammad Nabi departing when Hasan Ali opted to not follow the game fad of dropping easy catches.
With just five overs left in the innings, Afghanistan were 206-5 and eyeing a total closer to 250.
Hasan bowled out Najibullah Zadran in the 47th over and did the same to Shahidi in the penultimate over, only to see his ball adjudged a no-ball. The resultant free-hit was dispatched for four as Afghanistan reached 242 with just one over left.
Shahidi, after being given a lifeline by Hasan's overstretching foot, found an extra gear and smacked several more boundaries.
Despite that late flurry, the left-hander could not get his century, finishing just three runs short. Afghanistan, meanwhile, finished their innings at 257-6.
Earlier, Sarfraz made three changes to his playing eleven, with Muhammad Amir and Faheem Ashraf dropped and Shadab Khan rested due to an injury.
Debutant Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Nawaz and Haris Sohail replaced the outgoing trio.
Pakistan: 1 Imam-ul-Haq, 1 Fakhar Zaman, 3 Babar Azam, 4 Shoaib Malik, 5 Sarfraz Ahmed (capt, wk), 6 Asif Ali, 7 Haris Sohail, 8 Mohammad Nawaz, 9 Hasan Ali, 10 Usman Khan, 11 Shaheen Afridi
Afghanistan: 1 Mohammad Shahzad (wk), 2 Ihsanullah Janat, 3 Rahmat Shah, 4 Hashmatullah Shahidi, 5 Asghar Afghan (capt), 6 Mohammad Nabi, 7 Najibullah Zadran, 8 Gulbadin Naib, 9 Rashid Khan, 10 Aftab Alam, 11 Mujeeb Ur Rahman