ABU DHABI: Experienced batsman Shoaib Malik hit a six and a boundary to pull off a sensational last over three wicket win for Pakistan against a spirited Afghanistan in a pulsating Asia Cup Super Four clash in Abu Dhabi on Friday.
Malik pulled the second ball of the final over by paceman Aftab Alam over the deep square leg boundary and then whacked the next to deep fine leg for a boundary as Pakistan pulled off a nerve-wracking win in 49.3 overs at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
Pakistan, cashing a stiff 258-run target, were home and dry to start the Super Four Stage with a much needed win and now face arch rivals India in Dubai on Sunday.
Hashmatullah Shahidi missed out on a maiden hundred by a mere three runs but still steered Afghanistan to a challenging 257-6.
Pakistan were off to a disastrous start when opener Fakhar Zaman was trapped leg-before off the sixth ball of the innings by spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman for nought — the left-hander’s second successive duck of the tournament.
Fellow left-handed opener Imam-ul-Haq scored a 104-ball 80 with five boundaries and a six while Babar Azam knocked an attractive 94-ball 66 with four boundaries and a six during their innings repairing the 154-run stand for the second wicket.
But both fell within the space of four runs as leg-spinner Rashid Khan (3-46) brought Afghanistan back in the game with the asking rate getting stiffer, as Pakistan needed 42 off the final five overs.
Despite losing skipper Sarfraz Ahmed (8), Asif Ali (7) and Mohammad Nawaz (10), Malik kept his cool to sop Afghanistan from posting their third straight win after beating Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the first round.
Earlier, Hashmatullah hit three consecutive boundaries in the final over off Usman Khan Shinwari, but failed to get to three figures off the last delivery after Afghanistan won the toss and batted.
Hashmatullah finished with a brilliantly-paced 118-ball 97 not out, and added 94 for the fourth wicket with his skipper Asghar Afghan, who smashed five sixes and two fours in his 56-ball 67.
But it was Hashmatullah who held one end against Pakistan’s bowling in an innings which featured seven boundaries after left-arm spinner Nawaz (3-57) had put the brakes on Afghanistan’s early progress.
Hashmatullah had added 63 for the third wicket with Rahmat Shah who scored a measured 36.
The total is an improvement by Afghanistan after scoring 249 and 255 in their previous two wins against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Pakistani fielders dropped five catches — three off debutant paceman Shaheen Shah Afridi, who himself a couple of them before finishing with tidy analysis of 2-38 in 10 overs.
India, who defeated Bangladesh by seven wickets in the other Super Four fixture in Dubai on Friday, now meet Pakistan on Sunday, also in Dubai, while Afghanistan and Bangladesh square off in Abu Dhabi the same day.
Top two teams from the Super Four Stages will play the final in Dubai on next Friday.
Mohammad Shahzad c Sarfraz b Nawaz 20
Ihsanullah Janat c and b Nawaz 10
Rahmat Shah c and b Nawaz 36
Hashmatullah Shahidi not out 97
Asghar Afghan b Shaheen 67
Mohammad Nabi c Hasan b Shaheen 7
Najibullah Zadran b Hasan 5
Gulbadin Naib not out 10
EXTRAS (LB-2, W-1, NB-2) 5
TOTAL (for six wkts, 50 overs) 257
FALL OF WKTS: 1-26, 2-31, 3-94, 4-188, 5-200, 6-212.
DID NOT BAT: Rashid Khan, Aftab Alam, Mujeeb Ur Rahman.
BOWLING: Usman Khan Shinwari 10-1-58-0 (1nb), Shaheen Shah Afridi 10-0-38-2; Mohammad Nawaz 10-1-57-3; Shoaib Malik 4-0-21-0; Haris Sohail 6-0-30-0; Hasan Ali
10-0-51-1 (1nb, 1w).
Fakhar Zaman lbw b Mujeeb 0
Imam-ul-Haq run out 80
Babar Zaman st Shahzad b Rashid 66
Haris Sohail c Ihsanullah b Mujeeb 13
Shoaib Malik not out 51
Sarfraz Ahmed b Gulbadin 8
Asif Ali c Aftab b Rashid 7
Mohammad Nawaz b Rashid 10
Hasan Ali not out 6
EXTRAS (B-2, LB-2, W-13) 17
TOTAL (for seven wkts, 49.3 overs) 258
FALL OF WKTS: 1-0, 2-154, 3-158, 4-194, 5-216, 6-226, 7-242.
DID NOT BAT: Shaheen Shah Afridi, Usman Khan Shinwari.
BOWLING: Mujeeb Ur Rahman 10-2-33-2 (3w); Aftab Alam 9.3-1-64-0 (4w); Gulbadin Naib 10-0-61-1 (3w); Mohammad Nabi
10-0-50-0 (1w); Rashid Khan 10-0-46-3 (2w).
RESULT: Pakistan won by three wickets.
UMPIRES: A.K. Chaudhry (India) and
S. George (South Africa).
TV UMPIRE: R.J. Tucker (Australia).
MATCH REFEREE: A.J. Pycroft (Zimbabwe).
MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Shoaib Malik.
Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2018