Shoaib Malik the hero as Pakistan survive serious scare


Pakistan 258 for 7 (Imam 80, Babar 66, Malik 51*, Rashid 3-46) beat Afghanistan 257 for 6 (Shahidi 97*, Afghan 67, Nawaz 3-57) by three wickets

It was three balls from the end that the match finally appeared to have swung decisively. In an ideal world, Afghanistan wouldn’t have wanted their weakest bowler on the day – Aftab Alam – bowling the final over. But here he was, and under extreme pressure, it was experience that told. Shoaib Malik is experience personified, and he capitalised as the bowler lost his composure and sent down two poor deliveries with 10 needed off five balls. A six and a four, game over, and a three-wicket Pakistan win. Eight hours and a bit of Afghanistan playing out of their skins, and yet no points to show for it.

The best game of this tournament – one of the best ODIs all year – it refused to get off the knife’s edge. A magnificent unbeaten 97 from Hashmatullah Shahidi and an entertaining half-century from Asghar Afghan powered Afghanistan to their highest total of the tournament – 257 – overcoming a wobbly start where they lost both openers early.

Pakistan began in the worst possible way, losing Fakhar Zaman in the first over, but a monumental 154-run partnership between Babar Azam and Imam-ul-Haq appeared to have put them on course. It wasn’t nearly as simple as that, with Afghanistan continuously pegging Pakistan back. They fell just short in the end, and the tears flowed.

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