On Monday, Afghanistan delivered their second significant shock of the Cricket World Cup 2023, sending Pakistan plummeting to an eight-wicket defeat.
Afghanistan maintained its giant-killing binge on Monday, defeating Pakistan by eight wickets in a Cricket World Cup match. A target of 283 was certainly not the easiest of chases on a challenging Chepauk track, but Kolkata Knight Riders’ Rahmanullah Gurbaz (65 off 53 balls) teed off in style while his partner Ibrahim Zadran (87 off 113 balls) dropped anchor at the other end in an opening stand of 130 which laid the perfect platform. While experience is priceless in these kind of games, Afghanistan played well enough to chase down the target in 49 overs, exposing the frailties of Pakistan’s bowling squad, which simply did not show up on the day.Afghanistan had lost seven One-Day Internationals (ODIs) against Pakistan, and all four batters performed admirably in what was their biggest run-chase in 50-over history.Afghanistan’s second victory comes after defeating defending champions England in New Delhi, and the team now sits sixth in the mid-table jumble with four points.Pakistan remain in fifth place for the time being, but following a hat-trick of defeats, another loss against South Africa later this week will almost certainly close the knock-out doors for the 1992 winners.
Rahmat Shah (77 not out off 84 balls), whose straight six down the ground from Hasan Ali was a visual delight, demonstrated outstanding situational awareness even as Pakistan bowlers placed pressure on him in the second phase of the chase. He hit the same shot off the same bowler twice to put Afghanistan within a whisker of victory.
He was well supported by skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi (48 not out, 45 balls), who reverse swept an off-colour Shadab Khan against the turn at a critical moment, demonstrating his temperament. In some of the most challenging batting conditions, the pair contributed 96 runs for the third wicket. Everyone could see the joy and satisfaction on their faces after crossing the finish line.
The team received a standing ovation from the 21,000-person sporting crowd at Chepauk.
The match, which was played on the same track as the India-Australia encounter, had both grip and turn on offer, but Pakistan’s 282 for 7 was far from a terrible effort when one considers Afghanistan’s superb spin bowling outfit.
If spin is Afghanistan’s strength, it is clearly Pakistan’s biggest vulnerability, as bowlers of the quality of Shadab (0/49 in 8 overs) and Usama Mir (0/55 in 8 overs) do not win World Cups.
There are better wrist spinners in Indian domestic cricket than these two, and one of the finest in the world, Yuzvendra Chahal, doesn’t even get a look in this Indian team.
When Afghanistan began chasing, Gurbaz, who hammered nine fours and a six, was unfazed by Shaheen Shah Afridi, Hasan Ali, or Haris Rauf.Gurbaz knocked Rauf and leg-spinner Usama Mir to the cleaners in the opening 15 overs, and he also smashed off-spinner Iftikhar Ahmed for his solitary six.
Gurbaz, who is strong on the off-side, pounded the point and backward point zone regularly while Pakistani bowlers bowled short and wide outside the off-stump.
In one Rauf over, the eighth of the innings, Gurbaz hit four boundaries, three of which were cuts or slashes into the point zone.Pakistan’s fielding was atrocious to say the least, with most fielders publicly blaming others, including skipper Babar Azam, who lost his cool after failing to stop overthrows.
Earlier, Babar struck a disciplined half-century before beneficial cameos by lower-order batters guided Pakistan to a respectable total given the conditions.
If not for the efforts of Iftikhar Ahmed and the returning Shadab Khan, Pakistan would have finished with significantly less than what they eventually did. Opener Abdullah Shafique hit 58 off 75 balls and Babar got 74 off 92 balls.
While Iftikhar hammered his way to a 27-ball 40, Shadab knocked off 40 balls in 38 deliveries.
The Afghans moved in with four spinners, anticipating a slow pitch. However, the tune performed better than predicted.
Pakistani openers Shafique and Imam-ul-Haq (17) started cautiously but achieved a 56-run stand.
While they reached 50 in the ninth over, Shafique was looking for pacer Naveen-ul-Haq.
In addition, spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman proved costly in the first ten overs of the powerplay.
The Afghans scored their first goal on the second powerplay, with Imam falling to speedster Azmatullah Omarzai off a short puck.
Despite this, the Men in Green remained calm as Shafique and skipper Babar put on a 54-run partnership for the second wicket.
Spinners Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Kahn worked together to keep things under control, preventing the two hitters in the centre from freeing their arms.
Meanwhile, Shafique reached his third ODI half-century, while Babar tried to balance aggression and caution.