Tailender Naseem Shah hit two last-over sixes as Pakistan pulled off a thrilling one-wicket win over Afghanistan on Wednesday to set up an Asia Cup final against Sri Lanka, knocking out rivals India in the process.
Chasing 130 for victory, Pakistan were in deep trouble at 118-9 when number 10 Naseem muscled two hits over the fence off Fazalhaq Farooqi to win with four balls to spare in Sharjah and end India and Afghanistan’s hopes of making the final.
Vice-captain Shadab Khan top-scored with 36 and seemed to take away the chase when he hit Rashid Khan for a six but the leg-spinner got him out next ball in a see-saw battle.
The Afghans appeared set for victory when Farooqi, who had figures of 3-19 from his first three overs, saw two full tosses at the start of the final over dispatched over long-off.
“Those sixes will always be remembered,” Shadab, who also returned figures of 1-27 with his leg-spin and was named man of the match, said of Naseem’s heroics.
“Our management has promoted our bowlers to bat a bit, because you don’t know what situation will come in a game. Our bowlers also have the calibre to finish games with the bat.”
Captains and ducks
In a game dominated by bowlers, Pakistan fast bowler Haris Rauf led an inspired attack that limited Afghanistan to 129-6 after Pakistan elected to field first.
Ibrahim Zadran stood out with a fighting 35 in landmark match for skipper Mohammad Nabi, who fell for a first-ball duck, and felt his team fought in every game.
“We played good cricket from the start and gave our 100 percent,” said Nabi, whose side began the tournament with two thumping wins over Test nations Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
“In T20 we have the best team. It is a young side and we will try to build it day by day. We had a great tournament with one more game to go.”
In Pakistan’s reply, Farooqi trapped skipper Babar Azam lbw for a first-ball duck to give Afghanistan immediate hope of defending the low total.
Babar has suffered a dip in form, with scores of 10, nine and 14 in the previous three matches.
Pakistan suffered another blow when Fakhar Zaman was run out to leave the team 18-2.
Mohammad Rizwan, the tournament’s leading run-scorer and who replaced his captain as the world’s number one T20I batsman on Wednesday, attempted to rebuild the innings with Iftikhar Ahmed.
Rashid broke through by trapping Rizwan lbw for 20 and the batsman trudged back to the pavilion after an unsuccessful review.
Shadab was sent in ahead of Khushdil Shah and he delivered by taking on Nabi’s off-spin with a six and four to ease the pressure.
A struggling Shadab, with likely cramps, fell to Rashid while attempting a slog and popped an easy catch to short third-man.
But Naseem had the last laugh at a venue where former Pakistan batsman Javed Miandad once hit a last-ball six against India in the 1986 Austral-Asia Cup final.
India play Afghanistan in Dubai on Thursday in a dead rubber, with Pakistan facing Sri Lanka on Friday in a preview of Sunday’s final.
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