Saim Ayub and Ihsanullah came forward to avert Afghanistan whitewash in the final T20I
In the third and final game of the series, Afghanistan had won the toss and elected to bowl first while Afghanistan was never in serious pursuit of the 182 Pakistan put up, and collapsed to 116 all out in response.
In the third and final game of the series, Afghanistan had won the toss and elected to bowl first. The spin of Mujeeb-ur Rehman and Mohammad Nabi got rid of Mohammad Haris and Tayyab Tahir, but Saim Ayub and Abdullah Shafique fought back with a counterattacking combination, swinging the momentum in Pakistan’s favor.
Saim crushed Mujeeb over the on-side to set the tone, while Shafique faced Fareed Ahmed in the final Power play over to help Pakistan to 52, their highest six-over score of the series. Even after the Power play was finished, Shafique continued to treat Nabi in the same way, and even though Rashid Khan removed him in the next over, that little period of play had turned the match in Pakistan’s favor.
There was even time to spoil an unbeaten 17.5 over a boundary-less stint from Rashid when Saim deposited a full toss from the leg spinner over cow corner but he fell just one short of a 50.
Iftikhar Ahmed and Shadab Khan took over from there, going after each bowler as Afghanistan lost their discipline slightly. Seventy-four runs came off the final seven overs as Pakistan posted what was, by some distance, the highest total of the series.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz and a quick start were crucial for any realistic chances of a successful chase, but Imad Wasim, Zaman Khan, and Ihsanullah made sure neither would happen.
Sediqullah Atal, making his debut, struggled to a 19-ball 11, while Ihsanullah cleaned up Gurbaz during the Power play. A brief stand between Mohammad Nabi and Usman Ghani aside, resistance was scarce, and once Ihsanullah returned, it was snuffed out.
Karim Janat was out with the first delivery, and Najibullah Zadran was left bleeding and forced to retire hurt while a double-strike from Shadab – which included his 100th T20I wicket put an end to Afghan chances for victory.
But Ihsanullah wasn’t going to go soft. Rashid avoided a 145 kph bouncer after a similarly brutal delivery first up to Janat was sliced into the air for Haris to take a simple catch. For now, the focus was on fundamental self-preservation rather than run-scoring.
Afghanistan was never in serious pursuit of the 182 Pakistan put up, and collapsed to 116 all out in response.
“It’s a special occasion to be part of this team, it was a great effort from everyone. We won the series, but we have some areas to improve on. It was great learning for us. We responded well under pressure…we have struggled under pressure in the past but I’m happy that we chased in a couple of games. This was a much better wicket than the first two games. I felt 10 an over was gettable on this wicket. But the run-out and then Najib got hit, and we lost wickets in the middle.
Any series after this is a good preparation for us before the World Cup. Every game teaches us and the youngsters are going to be much better. I try to focus on fitness and work hard, need to make it as hard as possible for the batters. Need to keep it simple, not confuse me and not experiment much. I know my routine and I try to hit the areas,”says Rashid Khan.
“We wanted to finish on a high note and we have done that. We had to adapt to the conditions and the batsmen managed to do that tonight. We needed to play for Pakistan’s pride and we did it. The main motive of this series was to give the youngsters a chance, hopefully, they will get confidence from these matches and it will help them in the long run,”says Shadab Khan.