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Afridi and co. restrict Afghanistan to 227

29 Jun 2019 CricBuzz

After eight games into the tournament, in Leeds, Afghanistan finally found a template that suits their batting the best. After dumping their all-or-nothing approach towards scoring runs, and failing in their attempted ultra-cautious mode, they resorted to a style that is more natural to them yet with greater responsibility. It had its perks, it had failings. Yet, for only the second time in the 2019 world cup, they managed to bat out their quota of overs, and in the process, also registered their second-highest total - 227/9 - of the tournament.

Having elected to bat, Rahmat Shah and Gulbadin Naib started off quickly yet again. However, after being stroked for 10 runs off his first three balls, Shaheen Afridi returned to bag two wickets off his next two deliveries to put Afghanistan on the back foot in the fifth over itself. Naib nicked a full delivery outside off and offered Sarfraz Ahmed a regulation catch behind the stumps, while Hashmatullah Shahidi fell for a first-ball duck, getting a leading-edge to Imad Wasim at mid-off.

As it turned out, the assault against the young left-armer lasted all of three balls, as he returned to keep the run-flow in check. Even as the wicket was largely conducive for the spinners, Afridi's nagging lines and variations posed quite a challenge for the batsmen.

Ikram Ali Khil, promoted to No 4, struggled to push the scoring rate but provided solid support to Shah and Asghar Afghan, that helped lay a strong foundation for Afghanistan's innings. At the halfway mark of their innings, they were well placed at 120 for 3.

Nonetheless, the spin duo - Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan - sprung to action and bagged a wicket apiece to dismiss both the set batsmen - Ikram and Afghan - soon after and pulled back Afghanistan's charge. With wickets falling at regular intervals and the incoming batters taking time to settle in, the scoring rate suffered a hit. While several batsmen got off to starts, and Afghan and Najibullah Zadran scored 42 each, the absence of a batsman scoring big, hurt them yet again. Ikram was the only batsman to face over 60 balls, and he too managed to score only 24.

Much of Afghanistan's problems, yet again, cropped up from their inability to rotate the strike. Its effects could mostly be seen in the death overs when Samiullah Shenwari, who walked out to bat in the 37th over and remained unbeaten till the end, got to face only 32 deliveries even as most of his time in the wicket was spent along with tail-enders. However, that is nothing to take away from some fine bowling by Pakistan. With Afghanistan falling on the defensive early, the bowlers were allowed to work themselves into a dominant position.

Much like Afridi, who bagged two more wickets in the death overs to finish with 4 for 47, Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz too were hard to hit away. Nonetheless, while the 227-run total may not be imposing for the opposition, it is certainly something that can be tricky for Pakistan, a team that would be counting on a win today to strengthen their semifinal hopes. And with a strong spin trio at their disposal, Afghanistan would know they have enough on the board to sustain the challenge for a long period in the game.

Brief Scores: Afghanistan 227/9 in 50 overs (Asghar Afghan 42, Najibullah Zadran 42; Shaheen Afridi 4-47, Wahab Riaz 2-29) vs Pakistan


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