SHARJAH: Pakistan rued their inability to adapt to the conditions in Sharjah after their seven-wicket loss to Afghanistan in the second Twenty20 International on Sunday, a defeat that saw their opponents take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-game series.

Coming from the batting-friendly pitches that were laid at home during the Pakistan Super League, a new-look Pakistan side wilted for the second game running to give Afghanistan their first series triumph against a top-six ranked ICC team.

But the experienced duo of Imad Wasim and stand-in skipper Shadab Khan, whose 67-run partnership for the sixth-wicket saw Pakistan post 130-6, said the newcomers in the side deserved more chances on the international stage.

“All the players have potential and I have made it to the team because of their performances,” Imad, who top-scored for Pakistan with 64 not out, said after the match.

In the absence of five rested frontline players, including the star opening duo of Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, Pakistan continued to struggle against the pace and spin of Afghanistan on the slow wickets at Sharjah Cricket Stadium.

“The wicket here at Sharjah is quite difficult,” added Imad. “We thought 130-140 was a good score. It takes years [for a player] to learn reading the wickets and conditions. Sharjah is very tough in that regard and it’s very difficult to play on such wickets.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen such wickets in international cricket, but we are professional players and are experienced enough to be able to deal with everything and I think the youngsters will learn from this.

“Good professional players are those who assess the wicket well and bat or bowl accordingly. It doesn’t matter which opposition you are playing against, it’s mostly how you use the wicket.”

Afghanistan had recorded a memorable six-wicket win against Pakistan on Friday after pinning down Shadab’s team to 92-9 and inflicted more misery on Sunday when left-arm pacer Fazalhaq Farooqi dismissed Saim Ayub and Abdullah Shafique, both for nought, in the first over of the innings.

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

Mohammad Haris (15) and Tayyab Tahir (13) also couldn’t gauge the wicket well upfront. The stockily-built Azam Khan, who rose to fame with his power hitting in the recent PSL, was baffled by Rashid Khan’s sharp googly and was lbw for just one after his nought in the first game.

Imad and Shadab (32) then combined to take Pakistan to a respectable score but Afghanistan chased it down with one ball to spare.

Shadab noted Pakistan were up against it from the start.

“We were struggling again,” Shadab said at the post-match ceremony. “When you lose three wickets in powerplay, you lose 70% of the games … The young players were nervous. They are playing for the first time for Pakistan. Our motive for this series was to check out talented young players and we have to back them in the future.”

Pakistan did get back in the game late on with Afghanistan requiring 22 runs to win off the last two overs only for Najibullah Zadran and Mohammad Nabi to seal the game with their belligerent hitting against pace bowler Naseem Shah in the penultimate over.

Najibullah and Nabi hit a six each off Naseem to reduce the target to five runs before the former hit the winning boundary in Zaman Khan’s last over as Afghanistan showcased another impressive run-chase.


Shadab said the series defeat will help bring about the realisation that Babar and Rizwan play a vital role in stabilising Pakistan’s batting line-up.

“Babar and Rizwan had the sword hanging over their heads because people thought their strike rates weren’t good enough and wanted youngsters to get chances,” Shadab told the post-match press conference. “However, with both not here, I’m sure we can see how important they are and that experience always matters.”

But he still backed the young charges like Saim, Haris and Abdullah to come good in the future.

“One series won’t make a player good or bad forever,” he said. “We can produce top level players if we give them a long run in international cricket. It would be foolish to expect youngsters to perform like Babar or Rizwan from day one. Even they took their time to improve.

“We all know the potential of Saim, Haris and Abdulla and we should be patient with these players.”

In contrast, Afghanistan were delighted with their performance. Afghanistan have previously won a T20I series each against the West Indies and Bangladesh and five in five against Zimbabwe but this was a landmark victory for them.

“It’s a great honour and pleasure to lead this wonderful team,” said Afghanistan skipper Rashid at the post-match ceremony. “It was a great effort with the ball, and then we took it deep and finished it. I think 130 was a good total. We tried our best to take it deep and finish it. Our strategy was to go out there and make sure you take responsibility. We have players to finish it like Nabi and Najib.”

Former Afghanistan captain Gul­badin Naib noted that his side had benefitted from playing in Sharjah in recent years.

“Today’s game was much tougher than the first,” he told a news conference, “but we’ve played a lot of cricket in Sharjah so we know [conditions here] much better than Pakistan.”



Saim Ayub c Gurbaz b Farooqi 0

Muhammad Haris c Gurbaz b Naveen 15

Abdullah Shafique lbw Farooqi 0

Tayyab Tahir c Azmatullah b Janat 13

Imad Wasim not out 64

Azam Khan lbw Rashid 1

Shadab Khan run out 32

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

TOTAL (for six wickets, 20 overs) 130

FALL OF WICKETS: 1-0 (Saim), 2-0 (Abdullah), 3-20 (Haris), 4-60 (Tayyab), 5-63 (Azam), 6-130 (Shadab)

DID NOT BAT: Mohammad Nawaz, Naseem Shah, Zaman Khan, Ihsanullah

BOWLING: Farooqi 4-1-19-2, Azmatullah 3-0-34-0, Naveen 4-0-26-1 (1nb), Mujeeb 2-0-19-0 (1w), Rashid 4-0-16-1, Janat 3-0-13-1


Rahmanullah Gurbaz run out 44

Usman Ghani b Zaman 7

Ibrahim Zadran c Azam b Ihsanullah 38

Najibullah Zadran not out 23

Mohammad Nabi not out 14

EXTRAS (B-2, LB-2, W-3) 7

TOTAL (for three wickets, 19.5 overs) 133

FALL OF WICKETS: 1-30 (Usman), 2-86 (Gurbaz), 3-102 (Ibrahim)

DID NOT BAT: Karim Janat, Azmatullah Omarzai, Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Naveen-ul-Haq

BOWLING: Naseem 4-0-39-0, Zaman 3.5-0-22-1, Ihsanullah 3-0-23-1 (1w), Nawaz 4-0-16-0, Shadab 4-0-24-0 (1w), Imad 1-0-5-0

RESULT: Afghanistan won by seven wickets.

Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2023



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