Naseem Shah’s last-minute heroics take Pakistan to Asia Cup final

SHARJAH: Last-minute heroics by young sensation Naseem Shah in the last over helped Pakistan secure a birth in the final of the Asia Cup 2022 and send India packing.

In a low-scoring thriller, Pakistan defeated Afghanistan by one wicket as Afghanistan had set a 130-run target for Pakistan after being asked to bat first by Babar Azam.

The match appeared to be in the bag after Afghanistan were dismissed for 130, however, Mohammad Nabi and Co. gave the Green Shirts a run for their money with their exceptional bowling.

Pakistan lost Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam in the first six overs and when they lost in-form Mohammad Rizwan at the end of the ninth over with just 48 runs on the board, it seemed that the Men in Green were in trouble.

Afghanistan’s bowlers continued piling up the pressure but Iftikhar Ahmed and Shadab Khan’s 42-run partnership helped ensure that by the end of the 16th over, the target was within reach.

The tide turned in Afghanistan’s favour after the partnership was broken and Pakistan lost quick wickets cheaply.

In the last two overs, Pakistan needed 21 off 12 balls and had just three wickets in hand. In the second last over, Fareed Ahmad took two wickets, including the crucial wicket of Asif Ali.

By the end of his over, Pakistan needed 11 off 6 balls and just had their numbers 10 and 11 — Naseem and Mohammad Hasnain — on the crease.

However, Naseem’s two sixes from the first two balls of the penultimate helped Pakistan snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The one-wicket win meant that Pakistan will now take on Sri Lanka in the final of the Asia Cup.

Afghanistan were off to a flying start and looked set to set a big score once their openers started to hit the ball over the park.

However, Haris Rauf dismissed the explosive Rahmanullah Gurbaz in the fourth over and Mohammad Hasnain removed Hazratullah Zazai to bring two new batsmen to the crease.

Once the openers were dismissed, Babar brought in Mohammad Nawaz and Shadab who put pressure on Afghanistan with their tight bowling.

The pressure eventually got to Karim Janat and Ibrahim Zadran who were struggling to middle the ball. In the 12th over, Nawaz dismissed Janat to put Afghanistan three down.

From then on, regular dismissals by the bowlers and tight bowling by the Men in Green put Afghanistan in check.

It was only two boundaries by Rashid Khan in the last over that pushed Afghanistan to 129-6 and helped them set a 130-run target for Pakistan.

For the Men in Green, Haris ended up with two wickets while Nawaz, Shadab, Hasnain, and Naseem took one wicket each.

For Afghanistan, Ibrahim Zadran was their highest run scorer who ended up with 35 runs off 37 balls.

Mian Abrar
The writer heads Pakistan Today's Islamabad Bureau. He has a special focus on counter-terrorism and inter-state relations in Asia, Asia Pacific and South East Asia regions. He tweets as @mian_abrar and also can be reached at [email protected]

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