Twitter Reactions: Experienced Shoaib Malik keeps Afghanistan at bay in a thriller

Afghanistan fought until the end but their inexperience in close games went against them.

Shoaib Malik
Shoaib Malik & Hassan Ali celebrate Pakistan’s win. (Photo Source: GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images)

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For a change, the excitement for India game was less in the ongoing Asia Cup. They trounced Bangladesh by seven wickets as expected but all the eyes were on Afghanistan vs Pakistan encounter where the former side was giving a run for their money to their opposition.

Afghanistan opted to bat first after winning the toss and batted like a set template. Their openers Mohammad Shahzad and Ihsanullah Janat played the new ball cautiously but both of them failed to make it count this time. Shahzad was the one to hang around the other night but they missed their mark. However, the duo of Rahmat Shah and Hashmatullah Shahidi showed superb resilience and stitched a crucial partnership. Their 63-run stand kept Pakistan in check.

However, the real impetus to the innings came when their skipper Asghar Afghan came out to bat. He got off the mark with an authoritative six and then cleared his intentions. More often he is conservative in his innings, but today there was the intent. He took on the most successful bowler of Pakistan Mohammad Nawaz and smashed him for runs. His 67-run knock upped the ante as Afghanistan suddenly looked good for a score over 200.

Meanwhile, Shahidi got to his half-century playing patiently off 86 balls and then teed off amazingly. He tonked every bowler who came his way and even though the wickets kept falling at the other end, the left-hander didn’t perturb. It was his day and he didn’t let the opportunity of run-scoring go away. Unfortunately, Shahidi remained unbeaten on 97 but propelled his team to a more than decent total of 257 runs in 50 overs.

Nervy chase for Pakistan

Fakhar Zaman‘s struggle in this Asia Cup continued as Mujeeb got him in the very first over for a duck. However, Afghanistan were tasted with a bitter reality of playing the top nations. Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam batted beautifully to stitch a wonderful partnership. They took calculative risks and more importantly rotated the strike. The frustration started to creep in soon then in the opposition camp and in no time, the duo had added more than 150 runs.

The second drinks break though brought some hope for Afghanistan with the required run-rate just over six. Najibullah Zadran sensed a chance of the run-out and Imam, after playing so well, was gone for 80 to a fine direct hit. Soon Babar was sent back by Rashid with a brilliant delivery as Shahzad was quick to disturb the timber.

Suddenly, Afghanistan were believing and it showed in their fielding. Haris Sohail was edgy in his stay and the pressure got to him as he was dismissed by Mujeeb. But Shoaib Malik‘s experience kept Pakistan ahead in the game. Sarfraz Ahmed coming out to bat brought some sense at that stage. However, Rashid’s overs were key clearly and the batsmen weren’t taking risks off his bowling.

Sarfraz’s wicket took the game down the wire as Rashid brought his brilliance to the fore. But timely sixes form te lower-order helped Pakistan keep the game alive as they needed 10 off the final over with Shoaib Malik on the strike. Aftab Alam was entrusted with the last over but he faltered with Malik in front. The experience counted in the end as the thriller was won by Pakistan with only three deliveries remaining

Here’s how Twitter reacted during the game: