In a thrilling showdown at the R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on Saturday, August 26, Pakistan emerged victorious, defeating Afghanistan by a convincing margin of 59 runs in the final ODI of the three-match series.
Despite Afghanistan’s valiant bowling efforts and a remarkable rescue mission led by Mujeeb ur Rehman, Pakistan’s performance proved to be the difference.
With a target of 270 runs set by Pakistan, Afghanistan’s chase faced an early setback as Faheem Ashraf struck early, dismissing the dangerous Rahmanullah Gurbaz, who had made a stunning 151 in the previous ODI.
Ashraf continued to make an impact, removing Ibrahim Zadran and putting Afghanistan under pressure from the start.
The situation worsened for Afghanistan as Shadab Khan initiated a mini-collapse by claiming the wickets of Riaz Hassan and Hashmatullah Shahidi in a single over. Agha Salman then dismissed Gulbadin for a duck, further denting Afghanistan’s hopes.
Despite the adversity, Afghanistan’s resilience shone through. Mohammad Nabi, known for his rescue acts, fell victim to the craftiness of Nawaz, and even Rashid Khan’s fiery cameo was cut short.
Nevertheless, two inspiring innings emerged from Shahidullah Kamal and Mujeeb ur Rehman. The latter’s explosive knock, marked by five sixes, led to Afghanistan’s fastest ODI fifty.
However, despite their fighting spirit and two partnerships that accumulated over a hundred runs combined, Afghanistan ultimately succumbed to the might of Pakistan’s bowlers, culminating in a series defeat of 0-3.
The result of the series held profound implications, propelling Pakistan to the summit of the ICC ODI rankings just before two pivotal multi-team events.
Earlier in the day, Pakistan’s opening pair had navigated a slow but steady start, with Imam surviving a dropped catch by backward point off Mujeeb’s delivery. Nonetheless, Gulbadin’s persistence paid off as he dismissed Fakhar Zaman, forcing him into an error after creating uncertainty around the off-stump.
Imam followed suit, falling prey to a delivery outside off that ended up in the keeper’s gloves. The recovery efforts were spearheaded by Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, who forged a crucial 110-run partnership to rescue Pakistan from an early slump.
However, the momentum shifted as Pakistan stumbled from 162/2 to 184/5 in just fifteen balls, with the departures of Babar, Saud Shakeel, and Rizwan.
Despite the subsequent loss of Shadab Khan, a resilient partnership of 61 runs between Agha Salman and Mohammad Nawaz played a pivotal role in propelling Pakistan to a respectable total of 268/8.
Pakistan’s bowlers capitalised on this hard-fought effort, effectively defending the total and clinching a decisive victory. The contest showcased the ebb and flow of cricket, with both teams displaying moments of brilliance.
Pakistan’s comprehensive win underscored their mettle as they celebrated not only the series victory but also their ascent to the pinnacle of the ICC ODI rankings, setting a strong precedent for the challenges ahead.