Saturday, 1 March 2014 05:34
ESPNCricinfo: Playing only their third ODI against a Test-playing team, Afghanistan had Pakistan in serious danger of being bowled out for under 200. But Umar Akmal averted that fate with his second ODI hundred, his unbeaten 89-ball 102 steering Pakistan from a precarious 117 for 6 to a relatively safe total of 248 for 8, which proved enough to give them a 72-run win.
Afghanistan got their chase off to a steady start, and only lost one wicket in the first 15 overs. But they struggled to lift their scoring rate above four an over. After the dismissal of Noor Ali Zadran, who had made an attractive 44, the innings slowed down further, as Asghar Stanikzai and Nawroz Mangal were stifled by the Pakistan spinners on a slow, low pitch.
Stanikzai and Mangal stuck at it, though, and put on 74 in 18.1 overs, before they both fell in the space of three balls. That began a collapse which saw Afghanistan slide from 139 for 2 to 176 all out, with Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez running through the lower order.
Last man out was Samiullah Shenwari. He had taken two wickets during Pakistan’s innings, and had spun his legbreaks a long way. He had also dropped Akmal a straightforward skier at point. Akmal was on 28 at that stage, and Pakistan 146 for 6. From that point, Afghanistan’s bowlers lost their lengths, and went for 84 in the last 10 overs and 59 in the last five. Afghanistan had been a revelation till then. Having elected to bowl on a slow pitch, Afghanistan showed they had an attack that didn’t need too much assistance to keep the batsmen on a leash. Apart from one over in which their fastest bowler, Dawlat Zadran, went for three boundaries after drifting three times onto Ahmed Shehzad’s pads, they bowled terrific lines. The first 10 overs only brought Pakistan 39 runs. Pakistan could have been one down by then. Afghanistan’s wicketkeeper Mohammad Shahzad had dived to his right to take a climbing ball that seemed to brush Sharjeel Khan’s gloves as he tried to pull Dawlat. Umpire Johan Cloete, however, was unmoved.
But they didn’t have to wait too long. In the 13th over, Sharjeel picked out the deep midwicket fielder with a slog-sweep off left-arm spinner Hamza Hotak. At the other end, medium-pacer Mirwais Ashraf gave nothing away to Shehzad and Mohammad Hafeez. After Mirwaiz had given away eight runs in his first four overs, Hafeez tried going after him. Having just inside-edged an attempted slog for four, he attempted another, and sent a top-edge steepling into the hands of cover.
Three balls after reaching his fifty, Shehzad was out to another poor stroke, chopping on while trying to swat leg spinner Shenwari over the leg side. Pakistan were 89 for 3 after 23 overs.
That became 89 for 4 when they lost their captain Misbah-ul-Haq to a farcical run-out when he hadn’t yet faced a ball. Sohaib Maqsood, who had set off for a single after pushing a ball from Mohammad Nabi to cover, slipped mid-pitch. Instead of completing the run after getting back on his feet, Maqsood turned around and beat Misbah in a comical race to the batting crease. Wicketkeeper Mohammad Shahzad, who had collected the throw, jogged over to the bowler’s end and removed the bails.
Maqsood and Shahid Afridi perished to slogs and left Pakistan reeling on 119 for 6. In came Anwar Ali, who had replaced Bilawal Bhatti in the team’s pace attack. On his ODI debut against South Africa, Anwar had scored an unbeaten 43 to help his team recover from 124 for 6 to what was an eventually match-winning total of 218 for 9.
Ali made another important contribution here, adding 60 with Akmal for the seventh wicket, before he fell to a sensational bit of fielding from Mangal, who ran back from mid-off to long-off to catch a ball dropping down over his shoulder.
Akmal, at the other end, had survived a much easier chance, after Ashraf’s away movement had almost produced an identical dismissal to that of Hafeez. After that, Akmal opened up, walking down the pitch to the seamers and carting them to all parts. Batting on 85 at the start of the final over, Akmal took two off the first ball and crunched Dawlat successive boundaries to move to 95.
Akmal refused singles off the next two balls, after hitting to fielders on the boundary. With two balls to go and five runs to get for the century, Akmal hit Dawlat way over his head for six. He didn’t need to run, but raced to the other end anyway, took his helmet off, and did the sajda. In Pakistan’s previous match, he had taken them to within sight of victory against Sri Lanka before triggering a collapse with a poor stroke. Now, he had saved his team from what could have been a very awkward evening.
Chief Scores: Pakistan 248 for 8 (Akmal 102*, Shehzad 50, Mirwaiz 2-29, Shenwari 2-34) beat Afghanistan 176 (Noor Ali 44, Hafeez 3-29, Ajmal 2-25) by 72 runs