Farooqi and Najibullah lead Afghanistan to a heroic victory to win the series
Afghanistan has defeated Pakistan for the second time in a row, winning a legendary series with one game still to play, less than ten years after they first made their international debut.
But, they threatened to make a bit of a feast out of the 131 they had to chase after another strong bowling performance set them up for it. Najibullah Zadran and Mohammad Nabi, though, fought to the extreme finish, just as they had on Friday, to guide their side through rough seas and once again upset Pakistan.
Pakistan fought bravely to defend 130, and for a large portion of the chase, they were in the lead. Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Afghanistan’s famous opener, was unable to make much of an impact against the team’s disciplined pace and spin bowling.
By the time his second-wicket stand with Ibrahim Zadran finished, the needed rate had increased to more than 10. On a pitch where scoring runs of that magnitude is typically tough, Afghanistan found themselves needing 22 off the final two overs with Naseem Shah and Zaman Khan yet to bowl.
Nabi was available for Afghanistan, though, once more. The winning run came from a smeared six over midwicket off the first ball of Naseem’s final over, which was followed by a massive six over long-on from Najibullah. In his attempt to defend 5, Zaman Khan did his best to keep Afghanistan on its toes, but even he couldn’t cross that particular bridge.
The winning run was delivered with a deep third-inning slash, a mishandled catch attempt, and a ball that glided to the boundary. Afghanistan has never experienced anything as an easy reward, but what they have just worked hard to acquire will be the most satisfying of all.
Fazalhaq Farooqi played a major role in Afghanistan’s victory over Pakistan on Friday. With a stunning first over today, the Afghan fast bowler repeated the dose by throwing down a double-wicket maiden to open the proceedings.
Only two balls after Pakistan once again decided to bat first, Saim Ayub sliced one to the keeper, and Gurbaz grabbed an incredible catch low to his left. The following ball, an inswinging fuller delivery from Farooqi added another injury for Abdullah Shafique, handing him his fourth consecutive T20I duck.
The opener nicked off to Gurbaz for a 9-ball 15, but really, it was all Afghanistan. Mohammad Haris was good for a few quick boundaries.
It appeared difficult to reach three figures when Pakistan lost half of their team, for a total of 63. Yet Shadab Khan and Imad Wasim were able to hold off an onslaught of Afghan bowling, first holding, then striking. Once Rashid Khan’s spell ended, there were no boundaries scored in the first five overs of the stand.
Yet after minimizing the effect of the strike, the pair started to gradually turn the tables. Imad’s six sparked a counterattack, which resulted in a 45-ball half-century before Shadab joined in. 42 runs were scored in the final four overs, giving Pakistan a total they could defend in the end.
Naseem’s expensive first over featured a magnificent six from Gurbaz, but aside from that over, Pakistan was restricting the chase for both him and his team. Instead of boundaries, singles were scored instead, and the hosts were only sometimes able to score four runs before the Powerplay finished.
Gurbaz struggled to find any pace on a slow pitch, and a sloppy innings from Ibrahim at the other end didn’t improve their required-rate woes, either. Pakistan managed just one wicket in 15 overs, and by this point, the run rate had fallen below one run per ball.
In the preceding nine overs, only one boundary had been hit, and this was evident in the way in which Gurbaz departed.
He prepared for a switch hit out of desperation, but instead dragged a poorly timed hoick to short third. He started out for a single but was stopped, but Naseem’s direct hit eliminated any hope for him.
As Gurbaz walked away, he screamed angrily, and Afghanistan’s chances appeared to be lost. Nevertheless, critically, Afghanistan had held onto their wickets while Pakistan’s bowlers were in command, and that was what was finally needed.