Pakistan 268 for 8 (Rizwan 67, Babar 60, Naib 2-36, Fareed 2-70) beat Afghanistan 209 (Mujeeb 64, Kamal 37, Shadab 3-42, Shaheen 2-31) by 59 runs
No Naseem Shah, no Haris Rauf, no problem, said Pakistan as they stitched together another splendid bowling performance to secure a clinical 59-run win over Afghanistan to sweep the ODIs 3-0. Crucially, with the win, they also zoomed to the top of the ODI rankings just ahead of the Asia Cup.
Batting first on a two-paced Colombo surface, attritional half-centuries from Babar Azak and Mohammad Rizwan helped them reach 268 for 8. In reply, Afghanistan never really found their bearings on a pitch that seemed to have quickened up under lights. Mujeeb Ur Rehman tried his best to briefly throw a spanner into Pakistan’s works as he struck the fastest fifty by an Afghanistan batter in ODIs – off 26 balls and eventually finishing on a 37-ball 64. But the target proved to be a bridge too far.
Eventually, they were bowled out for 209 in 48.4 overs with Shadab Khan being the pick of the bowlers taking 3 for 42.
Chasing 269, Afghanistan needed a strong start from their openers which they never got. It did not help that Ibrahim Zadran couldn’t open, because he spent the last few minutes of the first innings off the field and hence had to serve time before walking out. Riaz Hassan and Rahmanullah Gurbaz were all at sea against the Pakistan fast bowlers, with Faheem Ashraf causing the most problems.
Hashmatullah Shahidi and Riaz added a brief 30-run stand for the third wicket but took 61 balls. There were plays and misses all through as the Pakistan bowlers stuck to a plan and more importantly, delivered.
Riaz’s chancy 66-ball 34 was ended by Shadab, who then also sent back Shahidi in the same over as Afghanistan stared down the barrel. From 60 for 2, they slipped to 75 for 6 and then 97 for 7. At that point, it seemed another quick end was certain. But Mujeeb and Shahidullah Kamal held fort.
They added 57 off 42 balls for the eighth wicket with Mujeeb doing the bulk of the damage. The only Afghan batter to show intent, he hammered five fours and five sixes during his knock which ended with him being dismissed for hit-wicket. He had his chances, took them on and frustrated the bowlers to no end.
Earlier, Pakistan’s was an innings of two halves. The first 30 overs yielded only 103 runs, the last 20 got them 165. At no stage did the batters look comfortable. Babar and Rizwan added 110 runs for the third wicket, but took 145 balls and had 84 dots. As it turned out, it was their innings which formed the cornerstone of Pakistan’s batting.
Pakistan still managed to get going at a tick over four an over, with Fakhar finding his groove. But a bowling change got the hosts back into the game. Gulbadin Naib, playing his first game of the series, made an immediate impact.
A couple of outswingers beat Fakhar’s outstretched blade before he tried a release shot only to miscue a length ball straight up with the catch intercepted well by Riaz. Naib then removed Imam as well. He came dashing down the track to a short-of-a-length ball outside off, but could only manage a thick edge with Gurbaz doing the rest.
Babar and Rizwan got together in the 13th over and for the next few overs, run-scoring became a massive task. Only four fours were hit in the next 18 overs, with the run rate dropping to below 3.50.
But the duo flicked a switch after drinks. Pakistan collected 85 runs between overs 31 to 40 to up the ante. Rizwan was the one to break the shackles and he reached his tenth ODI fifty off 69 balls while Babar joined him soon taking 77 balls to reach the landmark.
Both batters, however, failed to post a three-figure score. While Rashid Khan induced an outside edge off Babar’s blade, Rizwan fell lbw to Fareed Ahmed. In between, Afghanistan also ran out Saud Shakeel as Pakistan lost 3 for 9 in 15 balls. Mohammad Nawaz and Agha Salman, however, made sure to give Pakistan a good end. They stitched a 61-run stand off 47 balls for the seventh wicket. Afghanistan, who were brilliant in the field in the top half of the innings, started to make mistakes. There were a number of misfields and dropped chances with Pakistan going past 250 with ease, smoking 80 runs off the last ten overs.
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