Latest Match Report – Afghanistan vs Pakistan Match 22 2023/24

Afghanistan 286 for 2 (Ibrahim 87, Rahmat 77*, Gurbaz 65, Shahidi 48*, Hasan 1-41) Pakistan 282 for 7 (Babar 74, Shafiq 58, Noor 3-49, Naveen 2-52) with eight wickets.

8-0 or 7-1? Nah, we’re not talking about Which One. Going into their fifth match of the 2023 World Cup, Afghanistan had not beaten Pakistan in an ODI in seven attempts. They got close at least twice but had to suffer one heartbreak after another. But probably on the biggest stage of them all, Afghanistan has finally managed to break this hoodoo. And they did, in Chennai, with eight wickets chasing 283 with six balls to spare, creating their highest successful ODI chase in the process. ‘W’ against Pakistan finally, and 1-7 too. It was also the highest successful run chase against Pakistan in a World Cup match.

Should it be considered an annoyance? Perhaps not after what Afghanistan did to England, and not after the clinical manner in which they chased down the target on Monday to move up to sixth in the table.

Afghanistan’s chase started perfectly as Gurbaz Shaheen picked out Shah Afridi to the fine leg boundary and Ibrahim drove Afridi through the covers three balls later. As Ibrahim took Hasan Ali to the cleaners, Gurbaz targeted Haris Rauf, hitting him with four fours in his opener as Afghanistan raced to 60 after nine.

While the scoring of boundaries was flawless, their running between the wickets was even better. They were also helped by Pakistan’s sloppy fielding performance – they were all over the place.

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It took Afghanistan just 15.3 points to breach the 100-point mark. By then, Ibrahim and Gurbaz were in their 50s. Pakistan’s first wicket came only in the 22nd over, when Afridi produced a top edge off Gurbaz’s blade caught at deep third.

No panic stations, though. Rahmat walked in, and immediately set to work in his usual diligent manner. Whenever there was a series of dot balls, Ibrahim or Rahmat broke the shackles with a limit. They added 60 off 74 for the second wicket before Ibrahim, suffering from cramps, edged out Hassan with 87.

Any thoughts of a collapse, or even a few quick wickets, were quickly shut down by Shahidi and Rahmat. They added an unbeaten 96 for the third wicket, not giving Pakistan a single chance. The calm with which they went about their business was perhaps the most striking feature of the haunt.

Pakistan looked toothless for most of the chase, with their bowlers unable to get anything off the surface.

While Rahmat with five fours and a six remained unbeaten with 77, Shahidi scored a 45-ball 48*. It was the captain who scored the winners, taking a quick drag/flick from Afridi to spark emotional scenes in the dugout.

The first innings was one of three overs: Pakistan dominated the first 15 overs. The Afghan spinners dominated proceedings for the next 25 overs; Pakistan pumped in 91 runs in the last ten overs. This seemed to give them momentum going into the break.

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The pitch in Chennai was the same one used in India’s opening match against Australia, so Afghanistan fielded Noor Ahmed in place of Fazlul Haq Faruqi to score four balls in their line-up. The move, at least for the first 15 times, appears to have backfired.

Pakistan moved to 56th over without loss in the first ten overs, their best strong performance in ten World Cup innings. There was another first and second that happened in these ten strikes: Abdullah Shafiq hit two sixes. The first was Pakistan’s first after 1,169 balls in power plays this year.

Pakistan had already raced to 50 in 7.4 overs with Naveen-ul-Haq and Mujibur Rahman both leaking. At this stage, Shahidi turned to Mohamed Nabi, and the veteran player, through his variety of speed and length, was able to control the scoring. Azmatullah Omarzai capitalized on this at the other end when Imamul Haq mistook a pull to short midwicket.

Babar and Shafiq took the innings forward and Shafiq soon reached his second successive fifty off 60 balls. However, once the ball got a little older, and the surface got a little tired, I started playing more tricks. Between the 16th and 31st overs, Pakistan could only manage four fours and a six and scored 61 runs while losing two key wickets. Nour struck two effective blows.

He first took out Shafiq Rizwan with an error and then took out Mohamed Rizwan. Babar took 69 balls to reach his fifty before falling to Noor for 74.

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At 206 for 5 at the end of 42 overs, Pakistan looked like they were not up to par. But Iftikhar and Shadab changed the scenario. The two added 73 off just 45 balls, breaking up what had been a poor showing at the death of the Afghan bowlers.

But eventually the hitters arrived.

Ashish Pant is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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