• Friday, Nov 22, 2019
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Straight Bat: Afghan captain ensures a dramatic Pak win

  • Published at 01:32 pm June 30th, 2019
Afghanistan's captain Gulbadin Naib reacts after a delivery during the 2019 Cricket World Cup group stage match between Pakistan and Afghanistan at Headingley in Leeds, northern England, on June 29, 2019 AFP

It was the 46th over and the Afghan spinners had choked Pakistan like no one had in the tournament, and then Captain Gulbadin Naib brought himself in

It was without any doubt the most heart thumping match of the tournament.  Afghanistan, the team which had not won a single match against anyone was within striking distance of winning against a team which had beaten Australia, the top team in the World Cup.

The game changing 46th over

It was the 46th over and the Afghan spinners had choked Pakistan like no one had in the tournament. And then Captain Gulbadin Naib brought himself in. The spinners who had done the job till then still had plenty left, but still he came in.  He bravely bowled and gave away 18 runs in a single game-changing over.  If he was so keen to help Pakistan win, who are they to complain?

The last four overs were still dramatic as the run chase grew closer. Gulbadin then came in to perform the last rites as he took the final over. Wonder if that was guilt.  Wahab Riaz (15) and Imad Wasim (49) however took till fourth ball of the last over. An incredible Pak victory by three wickets. 

The pressure on Pakistan was incredible and they were unable to score the asking rate of 9+ at the beginning of the 46th over. But after the 46th over was done, it was under 7 and pressure was gone. Rest of the runs were just whittled away as Afghanistan proved once more it was also the worst fielding side of the tournament.  

Afghanistan is mediocre 

Pakistan was uninspiring generally and the Afghan batting was mediocre as usual. But they reached 220 and the spin-friendly ball hugging pitch was certain to help them. But Pakistan was cruising sort of comfortably, but faltered by the 20th over as they fell to 3/81. 

Pakistan was looking wobbly but they had underestimated Afghan inexperience. In the end, that helped them win a critical match.  But the mid-level team’s lack of consistency is different from a top team’s bad day at the office. This match has shown Pakistan has vulnerabilities that need mending. 

Pakistan at 4 now, Eng 5the 

Will Pakistan make it to the semis? With 9 points they are now part of the top four, pushing down England to fifth. England has to win both of its matches against India and NZ or it flops. Bangladesh supporters were hoping that Afghanistan would stop a not very impressive Pakistan, but Afghanistan was never good enough to help Bangladesh’s cause. It was too busy helping Pakistan.  Bangladesh’s next match is with India and only an optimist will think otherwise.  

Afghanistan is where it belongs. A bad decision that is so costly is part of the team’s identity.  They are not just up there. Pakistan is. 

Congrats Pakistan. It was a lucky escape not a great win but that is part of cricket too.