- Asmita Saxena
Afghanistan announced their intentions of being more than mere pushovers as they stunned Pakistan by three wickets in a World Cup warm-up game that went right down the wire. Middle-order batsman Hashmatullah Shahidi played the role of sheet anchor to perfection with an unbeaten 74 off 102 balls with the help of seven fours as Afghanistan chased down a below-par target of 263 set by Pakistan with a couple of balls to spare.
It was a brilliant bowling performance from IPL stars Mohammed Nabi (3/46) and Rashid Khan (2/27) to restrict Pakistan to 262 after captain Sarfaraz Ahmed decided to bat first despite a classy 108 ball 112 from Babar Azam. Afghanistan came out all guns blazing in the run chase with opener Hazratullah Zazai hitting a 28 ball 49 inside the powerplay to set the tone for the minnows. His opening partner Mohammad Shehzad looked to take the game away from Pakistan before getting retired hurt for a 25 ball 23 with an apparent injury to his left leg.
Zazai took on left arm fast bowler Shaheen Afridi, smacking him into the leg side for three consecutive boundaries in the fourth over of the innings. The paceman decided to chirp up to the batsman when he eventually managed to get one past Zazai who missed the pull. Afridi continued his follow-through all the way down the wicket, launching a verbal barrage the Afghanistan star’s way. Zazai however was having none of it as he simply waved him away asking the bowler to shut his mouth and focus on his bowling.
Former Australian skipper Michael Clarke, who was commentating on air, burst out laughing as he said “A few words as well, just letting him know. The batsman telling him to go back and bowl.”
Former New Zealand seamer Simon Doull was even more impressed, as he added, “I love that, I love that. See, you couldn’t have helped yourself Michael, you would have had a chip back, but that is the best response ever.”
Clarke responded by saying “Yeah that’s a good response from the batsman. Go back and bowl another one.”
Afridi continued mouthing off as he retreated but Zazai was having none of it, putting the leather-flinger in his place. Zazai wasn’t just done there as he crashed another four through the on side and finished by spanking Afridi wide of mid off for his fifth boundary of the over. The asking rate was always in control from that point onwards with Hashmatullah’s 102-ball innings aided by Nabi’s quickfire 34 making sure Afghanistan sealed the victory by three wickets with two balls to spare.
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