Pakistan seek recovery from humbling loss to keep Afghanistan series alive

Published March 26, 2023
Afghanistan players celebrate a wicket during the first Twenty20 International against Pakistan at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.—courtesy ACB
Afghanistan players celebrate a wicket during the first Twenty20 International against Pakistan at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.—courtesy ACB

SHARJAH: After their first-ever loss to Afghanistan in the series-opening Twnety20 Inter­national here on Friday, Pakistan opted to rest and reset on Saturday.

The message was clear after the six-wicket humbling with Pakistan captain Shadab Khan stating his young side needed to learn from their mistakes as they face a series-saving clash against their neighbours on Sunday, where victory would ensure a decider on Monday.

On Friday, Pakistan, without five rested frontline players including captain Babar Azam, struggled on a slow and low pitch at Sharjah Cricket Stadium against the Afghans and were restricted to 92-9.

Afghanistan then overcame falling to 45-4 in the 10th over to cruise home with more than two overs to spare.

With Pakistan handing debuts to Saim Ayub, Tayyab Tahir, Ihsanullah and Zaman Khan, Shadab confessed his new players were nervous.

“Tactics wise, we were fine,” said Shadab in the post-match ceremony. “But sometimes this can happen due to youngsters being nervous. They need to be given chances, they will get better.”

Pakistan came into the series after an exhilarating Pakistan Super League season where batters got plenty of runs but struggled on a pitch that provided assistance to Afghanistan’s three-pronged spin attack.

“As professionals, we can’t give excuses regarding conditions, we have to learn from the loss here,” added Shadab.

Pakistan bowling coach Umar Gul was expecting a response from his young side on Sunday.

“It was the first match for youngsters,” the former fast bowler said after the match. “They definitely learnt from it. Conditions here were different from Pakistan where these players performed in PSL. I hope they will learn from their mistakes and come back strong in the next games.

“It is a great platform for young players to perform at the international level. Overall, I am satisfied with the bowling and they bowled in good areas.

“The team is good; these youngsters have been performing in the domestic circuit for the last year or so. You can’t say on the basis of one match that they are not good enough. I strongly believe we have the potential to make a comeback and win the last two games.”

Afghanistan were naturally in a buoyant mood with man-of-the-match Mohammad Nabi, who made 38 not out to steer his side to victory, noting that the experience the Afghan players have earned playing in various leagues around the world, including the PSL, helped.

“Most of the guys in our squad are playing big leagues, some have been here in the UAE for 15 days so we were set,” he said at the post-match ceremony.

His skipper Rashid Khan hailed his side’s first victory in four matches against Pakistan but said Afghanistan’s front-line batters need to improve ahead of the 50-overs World Cup in India later this year.

“It’s a pleasure to win as we’ve always lost against them, sometimes with small margins,” Rashid said. “Wearing Afghanistan colors and leading the team in a win is a proud achievement. We never know the wicket . . . [but the] mindset was . . . to adjust accordingly. Happy for the win, and we hope to continue the momentum.”

But he added that their top order needed to perform better in the ongoing three-match series and maintain that form heading into the ODI World Cup in October-November.

“We need to improve not just for this series but as we get to the World Cup,” Rashid said. “From now on, we need to put effort day by day and game by game, so that by the end of the year, when we go for the World Cup, we’ll have a fully prepared squad.”

SCOREBOARD

PAKISTAN:

Saim Ayub b Naveen 17

Mohammad Haris c Azmatullah b Fazalhaq 6

Abdullah Shafique lbw Azmatullah 0

Tayyab Tahir c&b Rashid 16

Azam Khan c Gulbadin b Mujeeb 0

Imad Wasim b Fazalhaq 18

Shadab Khan c Azmatullah b Mujeeb 12

Faheem Ashraf c Rashid b Nabi 2

Naseem Shah hit wkt b Nabi 2

Zaman Khan not out 8

Ihsanullah not out 6

EXTRAS (B-3, LB-1, W-1) 5

TOTAL (for nine wkts, 20 overs) 92

FALL OF WICKETS: 1-17 (Haris), 2-22 (Abdullah), 3-39 (Saim), 4-39 (Tayyab), 5-41 (Azam), 6-60 (Shadab), 7-65 (Faheem), 8-71 (Naseem), 9-80 (Imad).

BOWLING: Fazalhaq 4-0-13-2 (1w), Azmatullah 3-0-20-1, Mujeeb 4-0-9-2, Naveen 2-0-19-1, Rashid 4-0-15-1, Nabi 3-0-12-2.

AFGHANISTAN:

Rahmanullah Gurbaz c Abdullah b Naseem 16

Ibrahim Zadran c Azam b Ihsanullah 9

Gulbadin Naib c Haris b Ihsanullah 0

Mohammad Nabi not out 38

Karim Janat b Imad 7

Najibullah Zadran not out 17

EXTRAS (B-4, LB-5, W-2) 11

TOTAL (for four wkts, 17.5 overs) 98

FALL OF WICKETS: 1-23 (Ibrahim), 2-23 (Gulbadin), 3-27 (Rahmanullah), 4-45 (Karim).

DID NOT BAT: Azmatullah Omarzai, Rashid Khan, Mujeeb-ur-Rahman, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Naveen-ul-Haq.

BOWLING: Naseem 4-0-27-1, Zaman 3-0-19-0, Ihsanullah 3.5-0-17-2 (2w), Imad 4-1-11-1, Shadab 3-0-15-0

RESULT: Afghanistan won by six wickets.

Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2023

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