In a stunning display of their prowess, Afghanistan pulled off yet another major upset in the ICC World Cup, outclassing Pakistan by eight wickets in a thrilling contest at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Monday (Oct 23).
Their remarkable journey of giant-killing continued as they successfully chased down a challenging target of 283, with Afghanistan’s batsmen putting on a masterclass performance.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz (65) and Ibrahim Zadran (87) led the charge, ably supported by Rahmat Shah (77*) and Hashmatullah Shahidi (48*) as they sealed an emphatic victory.
For Pakistan, it was a day marred by disappointment as their bowlers, with the exception of the fiery Shaheen Afridi, struggled to make an impact.
The Afghan batsmen find their way through Pakistan’s bowling attack with remarkable ease. Gurbaz dominated the early overs, taking apart Haris Rauf, who, unfortunately, has been unable to find his rhythm, conceding 17 runs in his first over.
The fielding lapses of the Pakistani side didn’t aid their cause, gifting away 15-20 extra runs.
In the middle overs, Shaheen Afridi made a brief resurgence, sending Gurbaz packing, and Hasan Ali claimed the wicket of Zadran.
However, Pakistan missed the opportunity to capitalize on this window of opportunity, failing to seize control of the match.
Just a few days ago, Afghanistan had stunned England with a remarkable performance. The Afghan team’s performance in subcontinent conditions played a crucial role in their victory.
The victory against Pakistan followed a similar pattern – an unexpected outcome, but this time, the Afghan side didn’t just upset their opposition, they dominated, making the victory even more satisfying.
Opting to bat first, Pakistan established a solid start with Abdullah Shafique and Imam-ul-Haq, forging a 56-run partnership in the first 10 overs.
However, Imam’s recurring struggle with short balls continued as he fell to one, prompting Afghanistan to unleash their spinners. A bold decision to play four spinners paid off handsomely as it slowed down the scoring rate considerably.
Despite the spin onslaught, Shafique and Babar Azam managed to construct a fifty-run partnership for the second wicket.
On his World Cup debut, Noor Ahmad made a significant impact, dismissing both in-form batsmen (Shafique and Rizwan) in quick succession. Babar Azam, attempting to accelerate the innings, departed after reaching his half-century.
However, Shadab Khan and Iftikhar Ahmed played pivotal roles during the final powerplay. Iftikhar’s 27-ball 40 and Shadab Khan’s 38-ball 40 bolstered Pakistan’s total to 282/7.
With this exceptional victory, Afghanistan keeps their dream of securing a top-four spot alive, while Pakistan faces an uphill task from hereon, needing a resurgence to rekindle their World Cup hopes.