Naseem Shah hit two straight sixes to help Pakistan pull off a thrilling one-wicket win over Afghanistan on Wednesday and set up an Asia Cup title clash with Sri Lanka.
Chasing 130 for victory, Pakistan were in deep trouble at 118-9 before number 10 Naseem smashed Fazalhaq Farooqi over the fence in successive balls in the final over in Sharjah.
It was a second Super Four defeat in a row for Afghanistan, and one that also eliminated reigning champions India from the running for a place in Sunday’s final.
Pakistan restrict Afghanistan to 129-6
Fast bowler Haris Rauf led an inspired Pakistan bowling attack that limited Afghanistan to 129-6 on Wednesday as they look to seal a spot in the Asia Cup final.
Rauf took 2-26 after Pakistan elected to field first knowing victory would secure a place in Sunday´s final against Sri Lanka and knock India out of the T20 tournament.
Afghanistan struggled to put together any significant partnerships, with Ibrahim Zadran (35) the lone batsman to put up some genuine fight.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz started cautiously before hitting pace bowler Mohammad Hasnain for two straight sixes at the end of the second over.
Hazratullah Zazai joined in with a few boundaries but soon lost his partner after Rauf bowled Gurbaz with an angling delivery that clipped the off stump.
Zazai’s innings was cut short by Hasnain who bowled the left-handed opener on 21.
Ibrahim and Karim Janat attempted to rebuild against a disciplined Pakistan spin attack, which kept the scoring to under seven an over.
Janat looked to launch left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz into the stands but succeeded only in skying to long-on.
Afghanistan kept losing wickets and fast bowler Naseem Shah bowled Mohammad Nabi for a first-ball duck in the captain´s 100th T20 international as Afghanistan slipped to 91-5.
Ibrahim took Afghanistan past 100 but soon fell caught behind to Hasnain.
Rashid Khan added some runs to the total, hitting Rauf for a four and six in the final over to finish unbeaten on 18 off 15 balls.
Pakistan win toss, chooses to bowl first
Earlier, Pakistan skipper Babar Azam won the toss and elected to field first against Afghanistan in their bid to seal a final spot in the Asia Cup Twenty20 tournament.
If Pakistan win this Super Four match in Sharjah they will face Sri Lanka in Sunday’s final and knock arch-rivals India out of the tournament, which acts as a tune-up to the T20 World Cup in October-November.
Pakistan come in unchanged from their previous win over India, who have lost both their Super Four matches so far.
“The pitch looks nice and the second thing is the dew factor, that’s why we are bowling first,” Azam said at the toss.
“Hopefully we pick up early wickets and restrict them. The mood is cool and calm and we will try to continue the (winning) momentum.”
Afghanistan, who lost their previous match to Sri Lanka at the same venue, have made two changes to stay in the hunt for the final with Azmatullah Omarzai and Fareed Ahmad Malik making the team.
Skipper Mohammad Nabi brings up a landmark 100th T20 international appearance since making his debut in 2010.
“We would have bowled first. There will be dew later on, the humidity is too much and the ball does not grip towards the end, it is all part of the game,” Nabi said.
“But we will try and put a big score on the board. It is always a tough game against Pakistan. We have had a lot of good games in the past and we will try our best to not repeat our mistakes.”
Playing XI teams
Afghanistan: Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmanullah Gurbaz(wkt), Ibrahim Zadran, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi (capt), Karim Janat, Rashid Khan, Azmatullah Omarzai, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Fareed Ahmad Malik, Fazalhaq Farooqi
Pakistan: Babar Azam (capt), Mohammad Rizwan (wkt), Fakhar Zaman, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Naseem Shah, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Hasnain