Afghanistan has achieved a victory that they have arguably desired more than any other, after eleven years since their initial encounter with Pakistan. They swept aside their opponents by six wickets in a clinical performance during the first T20I in Sharjah. Throughout the match, the hosts proved to be the better team, and they secured their win in a stylish fashion. Mohammad Nabi, who had returned to the team, emerged as the hero with his outstanding performance in both batting and bowling, culminating in a remarkable six over mid-off off Ihsanullah. pak vs afg highlights, 2023,series,2023squad,2023venue
Winning the toss, Pakistan decided to bat first, but Afghanistan quickly asserted their authority by keeping the young Pakistan batting line-up under control. Despite the challenging batting conditions, Pakistan faltered against Afghanistan’s disciplined bowling, losing wickets at frequent intervals, and failing to put any pressure on the hosts. None of the Pakistani batters could score more than 20 runs as their innings progressed sluggishly. Pakistan ended their innings with a meager 92 for 9, marking their fifth-lowest T20I total.
During Afghanistan’s chase, the difficulties of batting on the surface became apparent, and Pakistan’s pace bowlers took advantage of the conditions. Making an exceptional debut, Ihsanullah took two wickets in his first three balls, causing Afghanistan to lose three quick wickets. Pakistan appeared resurgent, posing a threat to run through Afghanistan’s batting line-up. However, in a match where experience outweighed flamboyance, Nabi played a crucial role in calming Afghan nerves. With an unbeaten run-a-ball 38 and a composed partnership with Najibullah Zadran, Nabi shut the door on Pakistan’s hopes of a comeback.
Afghanistan rein in Pakistan’s top order
Despite their impressive performances in the PSL, Pakistan’s openers, Saim Ayub and Mohammad Haris, found it challenging to take on Afghanistan’s bowlers. The surface was vastly different from what they had experienced in the PSL, causing Haris and Ayub to struggle to make contact with the ball. Fazalhaq Farooqi’s early swing set the tone, and the bowlers took advantage of the young openers’ frustration, eventually earning their reward. Haris attempted to hit a short ball towards square leg but ended up slicing it in the air over point, with Azmatullah Omarzai running backward to take the catch over his shoulder.
In the subsequent over, Azmatullah Omarzai secured another wicket by trapping Abdullah Shafique lbw. Before the powerplay came to an end, Saim Ayub also fell while attempting a no-look lap over fine leg, which was one of the standout shots of the PSL. However, on this surface, where the ball did not come onto the bat in the same way, he could only deflect it onto his stumps.
Spin takes over
Pakistan’s batters continued to struggle after being reduced to 39 for 3. Rashid Khan took charge of the bowling attack as soon as the powerplay was over. He wasted no time in dismissing the only Pakistani batter who had shown any level of proficiency, completely deceiving Tayyab Tahir with flight and ending his breezy nine-ball 16. On a surface where the ball seemed to be sticking in the pitch, Azam Khan was equally clueless, lobbing a catch to short midwicket for a two-ball duck off Mujeeb Ur Rahman’s bowling.
Between the seventh and the 17th over, only six balls of pace were bowled, and during those 11 overs, Pakistan’s situation went from shaky to shell-shocked. By the time the team had reached the 17th over, they had been reduced to 80 for 8, leaving no chance for a comeback.
It was unfair to expect Ihsanullah to defend such a low total in his debut international game, but he still gave it his all. His first international ball had extra pace, which surprised Ibrahim Zadran and forced him to mis-hit the ball up into the air. Two balls later, Gulbadin Naib was dismissed in a similar fashion, and Pakistan suddenly regained their confidence.
In the following over, Naseem Shah managed to dismiss the biggest dangerman, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, thanks to a sensational catch by Shafique at short midwicket. The Afghanistan innings seemed to be in trouble when Imad Wasim delivered a dart into middle stump to clean up Karim Jannat. At this point, it looked like Pakistan was about to inflict another heartbreaking defeat on Afghanistan.
The Nabi-Najibullah partnership
For some time now, it has been evident that Mohammad Nabi’s star has been on the decline. However, his recall to the side couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment for Afghanistan. As someone who has been associated with Afghan cricket since its inception, his seasoned and mature approach was precisely what his side needed to calm their nerves and dispel any paranoia. He opted to play cautiously against Imad Wasim and took the sting out of the contest as he and Najibullah Zadran reduced the target. Since they didn’t have to worry about the required run-rate, the dot balls didn’t put any pressure on them, and the occasional boundary only heightened Pakistan’s desperation.
As Shadab searched for wickets, he brought Ihsanullah and Naseem to bowl a couple of overs early, and Nabi saw his chance. Realizing that the fast bowlers weren’t getting much help from the wicket, he hit Naseem for two boundaries at the end of the 17th over, reducing the target to single digits. It was only fitting that Nabi sealed the win with a majestic six over mid-off, a regal shot from a player considered as Afghan cricketing royalty.