SHARJAH: Afghanistan overcame late nerves in the closing overs to beat Pakistan by seven wickets in the second Twenty20 international on Sunday and take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-game series.

Needing 30 off the last three overs, and 22 from the last two, Najibullah Zadran and Mohammad Nabi hit a six each off pace bowler Naseem Shah in the penultimate over to reduce the target to five runs.

Zadran then hit the winning boundary off Zaman Khan’s last over to chase down the 131-run target with one ball to spare.

“It’s a great honour and pleasure to lead this wonderful team,” said Afghanistan skipper Rashid Khan.

Pakistan’s 130-6 in 20 overs was built around a sedate 57-ball 64 not out by all-rounder Imad Wasim — his maiden T20I half century.

This was Afghanistan’s first bilateral T20I series against any of the top six teams — India, England, Pakistan, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.

They have previously won a T20I series each against the West Indies and Bangladesh and five in five against Zimbabwe.

Rahmanullah Gurbaz (44 off 49 balls) and Ibrahim Zadran (38 off 40 balls) set the platform during their 56-run second wicket stand.

However, their slow batting left Afghanistan needing to score 46 off the last 30 balls. Najibullah (23) and Nabi (14) remained unbeaten to seal the victory.

Earlier, Pakistan’s recovery was led by Imad who hit two sixes and three boundaries to rescue Pakistan from 63-5 after winning the toss and batting.

Imad and Shadab (32) added 67 for the sixth wicket.

Pakistan had got off to a disastrous start with left-arm pacer Fazalhaq Farooqi claiming Saim Ayub and Abdullah Shafique, both for nought, in the first over of the innings.

Farooqi finished with 2-19 in his four overs.

Shafique has now been dismissed for nought on four successive occasions in five T20Is since making his debut in November 2020.

Mohammad Haris hit a six and two boundaries in his nine-ball 15 while Tayyab Tahir scored a 23-ball 13.

The stockily built Azam Khan, who rose to fame with his power hitting in the recent Pakistan Super League, fell to spinner Rashid Khan, scoring just one after his nought in the first game.

Shadab, who is deputising for rested skipper Babar Azam, hit three boundaries in his 25-ball knock.

Imad’s previous best of 47 had come against Sri Lanka in Lahore in 2019.

Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2023

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