Ibrahim Zadran and Rahmanullah Gurbaz hit a commanding opening partnership to set up Afghanistan for a famous 8-wicket victory over Pakistan in Chennai.
By PakPassion Staff (25 October., 2023)
Afghanistan 286 for 2 (Zadran 87, Rahmat 77*, Gurbaz 65) beat Pakistan 282 for 7 (Babar 74, Shafique 58, Iftikhar 40, Noor 3/49) by 8 wickets.
Afghanistan achieved a remarkable victory over Pakistan, successfully chasing down their target of 283 runs, their highest successful chase in ODIs. This win marked Afghanistan's first-ever ODI victory against Pakistan in eight attempts. Even though Pakistan set a reasonable total, Afghanistan chased it down easily and triumphed with eight wickets to spare.
While some might consider this outcome an upset, even after Afghanistan's earlier victory over England, the manner in which they executed this chase showcased their growing prowess. Batting first on a pitch devoid of grass, Pakistan, led by Babar Azam and Abdullah Shafique, posted a total of 282 for 7, aided by crucial contributions from Iftikhar Ahmed and Shadab Khan.
Afghanistan's response was clinical and ruthless. Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran initiated the chase with a 130-run opening partnership, both achieving half-centuries at a good strike rate. Their aggressive boundary-hitting and astute running put Pakistan on the back foot. Afghanistan reached 100 runs in just 15.3 overs, and both Ibrahim and Gurbaz registered fifties. Pakistan's first wicket fell in the 22nd over when Shaheen Shah Afridi claimed Gurbaz, thanks to a good catch by Usama Mir at third man.
No panic ensued. Rahmat Shah and Hashmatullah Shahidi forged a partnership of 96 runs for the second wicket, displaying composure in their chase.
Throughout the chase, Pakistan's bowlers struggled even on a slow, turning track as their bowlers failed to land the ball in the right areas. On top of that, their fielders gave away too many free runs. Rahmat remained unbeaten on 77, while Shahidi contributed an essential 48 not out. The winning runs came from the captain, sealing an emotional victory.
The first innings could be divided into three phases of the match: Pakistan dominated the initial 15 overs, Afghanistan's spinners controlled the next 25, and Pakistan finished strong, adding 91 runs in the final ten overs.
Chennai's pitch, used for India's opening game against Australia, prompted Afghanistan to field four spinners, including Noor Ahmad, who replaced Fazalhaq Farooqi. Initially, this move appeared to backfire, as Pakistan raced to 56 for no loss in the first ten overs. Abdullah Shafique achieved a remarkable feat for Pakistan by hitting two sixes during this period, a rarity in 2023.
The introduction of Mohammad Nabi into the bowling attack halted Pakistan's momentum. Nabi's variations in pace and length slowed down the scoring rate, and Azmatullah Omarzai got rid of Imam-ul-Haq, who fell to another short ball.
Babar Azam and Abdullah Shafique steadied the innings, with Shafique reaching his second consecutive fifty. As the ball aged and the pitch showed signs of wear, scoring became increasingly difficult. Pakistan managed only two fours and a six between the 16th and 31st overs, adding 61 runs while losing two crucial wickets. Noor Ahmad was the key bowler, dismissing Shafique and later removing Mohammad Rizwan. Babar, who took 69 balls to reach his fifty, fell to Noor for 74.
At 206 for 5 after 42 overs, Pakistan seemed to be falling short. However, Iftikhar Ahmed and Shadab Khan added 73 runs in just 45 balls, injecting the late innings impetus.
In the end, it was Afghanistan who outclassed Pakistan in all three facets of the game, leaving Pakistan’s World Cup aspirations teetering on the edge.