Afghanistan vs Pakistan 3rd ODI: Preview and Prediction
After a humdinger in the second ODI, the caravan moves to Colombo where the final match of the ongoing three-match ODI series will be played between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran’s record-shattering stand went in vain as the Babar Azam-captained side clinched a last-over thriller in the must-win game for the home side.
After a humiliating loss in the first ODI where Afghanistan was bundled up for 59 runs, the recent-most Test playing nation made a valiant comeback with endeavors flowering around each department. Although the result might speak something else, the fight that was put on the display was impeccable.
After winning the toss, Afghanistan skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi opted to bat first. Unlike their last game, the openers- Gurbaz and Ibrahim were watchful at the start against the pair of Naseem Shah and Shaheen Afridi. There was a point in time when younger Zadran made just five runs after playing 30 balls. The pair gradually accelerated on seeing the loose deliveries and went on to notch a mammoth 227 runs stand for the opening wicket.
While Gurbaz had the audacity to shimmy down against the pacers on short deliveries, Ibrahim was steady and amble in his display. The wicketkeeper-batter went on to record 151 runs facing as many deliveries with three sixes and fourteen fours.
In his career-best knock of the format, the 21-year-old earned statistical accolades that saw him become the first-ever wicket-keeper batter to go past 150 runs in an ODI against Pakistan. This was also the third-highest individual score by a batter in Sri Lanka in ODIs.
The first blood was shed by Usama Mir in the 40th over when Ibrahim Zadran holed out to Iftikhar Ahmed at long off for 80 off 101 balls. Shaheen Afridi came in for a bust and followed it by a couple of wickets in the 45th over. With brisk contributions from Mohammad Nabi (29) and Shahidi (15), the Atalans touched the 300 runs mark in the stipulated overs.
Arriving for the chase, Pakistan got a steady start despite the new ball flirting with Fakhar Zaman’s blade for some period. Imam-ul Haq and Zaman glued 52 runs opening stand before Fazalhaq Farooqi dismantled the latter’s off stump.
Skipper, Babar Azam walked in at no.3 and redeemed himself for the silver duck in the last game with a crucial half-century. While Imam looked like a flawless batter, Babar anchored the innings with regular boundaries. The best friends added 118 runs together for the second wicket before the Pakistan captain was done by Farooqi for 53 off 66 balls.
When the ball was in Pakistan’s court, the left-arm pacer’s middle-over burst widened the chance to welcome a middle-order collapse. Agha Salman, Usama Mir and Imam were dismissed in a space of ten balls and it came down to Shadab Khan as the lone warrior in the slog overs. Mighty ball-striking from the leg-spinning all-rounder in the 49th over curtailed down the equation to 11 runs needed from the final over.
This is where the drama kicked off. Shadab Khan was run out at the non-striker’s before the very first ball of the over as Farooqi saw him leave early and induced a pivotal dismissal.
With one wicket in hand, Naseem Shah countered the left-arm pacer with a four in the legal first delivery. When six runs were needed off the ultimate three balls, a misfield at deep mid-wicket allowed three runs to be scampered and Naseem found the outside edge on the fifth delivery of the over to see the ball scurry towards the ropes.
Not once, but this is the second time that Nsseem Shah stole the show from Afghanistan. The last time this happened was in the 2022 Asia Cup where the young gun slammed back-to-back sixes to bring triumph.
What have they done so far?
What could’ve been the first-ever victory for Afghanistan in ODIs against Pakistan transpired into a heart-throbbing victory for the neighbors. With the visitors gaining an unassailable 2-0 lead, the third ODI carries less baggage and more game time for both nations ahead of the mega events- Asia Cup and World Cup in the next couple of months.
When rewinded back, the Atalans arrived in the series after their cricket board agreed to play in a home-like neutral venue. Previously, the Jonathan Trott-coached community battled against Bangladesh in a multi-format series where they bounded back after a thrashing defeat in the one-off Test. They turned the tables in the ODI format where the equation fell 2-1 in captain Shahidi’s favor.
On the flip side, the Men in Maroon invited a second-string New Zealand side to tour their land when most of their primary players were rubbing shoulders in the glitterati Indian Premier League. The Shaheens were 4-0 ahead in the series and a white-wash was denied after a dominant 47-run victory for Tom Latham and his inexperienced lads.
The neighboring nations have battled against one another in six ODI matches so far. After two wins in the ongoing series, Pakistan is dominating the race 6-0. Afghanistan is yet to win an ODI game against their counterparts.
Imam-ul-Haq (Pakistan): The left-handed batter may not be one of the most charismatic southpaws of all time but has a touch of gold. When Imam bats, no situation feels like tricky for him. The left-hander has brought up back-to-back half-centuries in the ongoing series and will look to make it no. 3. Currently, he has piled up 152 runs in just a couple of innings.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz (Afghanistan): The wicketkeeper-batter has evolved into a very mature batter and showed that he is even made for the ODI format. The run-a-ball 151 from Gurbaz in the previous ODI defined temperament in this format of play.
He was very sensible with his shot selections and made use of the crease whenever he felt to capitalise. One can expect Gurbaz to continue with his scintillating form in the next game.
Pakistan: Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam ©, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Iftikhar Ahmed, Agha Salman, Shadab Khan, Usama Mir, Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah, Mohammad Wasim Jr.
Afghanistan: Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Ibrahim Zadran, Hashmatullah Shahidi ©, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi, Hashmatullah, Riaz Hasan, Rashid Khan, Abdur Rehman, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Fazalhaq Farooqi
The momentum is with the Pakistan side after two back-to-back victories. The first one saw the Men in Maroon dominate and manhandle the Afghan side while the second ODI saw nerves of steel and getting the job done in close encounters. Afghanistan is a side that won’t even leave a hair’s space to their opponents, but one can expect Babar Azam and his group to emerge on top with sheer brilliance.