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Scratchy Imad helps Pakistan sneak into top 4

29 Jun 2019 CricBuzz

Former Pakistan skipper Imran Khan might believe, "Raillu Kattas rarely perform under pressure" but it was just one of those rare days. For most parts before and after the 46th over, Imad Wasim was struggling against spin; at times to the skill of the bowlers, at times to the aid off the surface, and at times to his own lack of confidence in countering the challenge. The Afghanistan bowlers kept targeting his pads, and he looked in sorts of trouble in working them away. Off his first 33 balls against spinners, he had managed to score only 17 runs.

Pakistan's decision of taking the game deep, was turning the pressure on them, courtesy Afghanistan four-pronged spin attack. Going into the last five overs, they were left needing 46 runs with no specialist batsman left. And then, despite having enough overs of spin at disposal, Gulbadin Naib brought on to bowl the 45th over. The lack of threat his medium pacers possessed coupled with his erroneous lines and lengths he dished out, allowed Wasim to break free. 18 runs were collected from that over, the mounted pressure on Pakistan was released and the Afghanistan captain went down.

However, despite the prosperous over, Wasim's struggle against spin continued - against Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman, who bowled the next two overs. However, Wahab Riaz, who had come in to the match despite suffering from a stress fracture, returned impressive bowling figures of 2 for 29, put on a fighting performance with the bat. His slogs allowed for some quick runs as Afghanistan were looking to pull their way back into the contest, none for effective than a slog sweep for six off Rashid Khan in the 48th over.

Needing six runs off the last over, a dispirited Gulbadin again came on to ball ahead of Samiullah Shenwari. And yet again, Wasim found his comfort zone and took Pakistan over the line with two balls to spare.

On a tired wicket, 227 was a reasonably good total for Afghanistan to challenge Pakistan in pursuit of their first win - however insignificant - of the tournament. And Pakistan only helped matters for them when Fakhar Zaman was trapped legbefore without a run on the board, in the first over. He departed, and along with that, also took the Pakistan's only review of the innings with him.

However, yet again, Babar Azam and Imam ul Haq revived their chase with sensible, steady batting. However, after a crucial 72-run stand, both the batsmen fell in quick succession to Mohammad Nabi. The veteran offspinner bowled a tight spell in the middle over to not only put breaks to Pakistan's progress but also throttle the scoring rate.

Mohammad Hafeez and Haris Sohail, who had to shoulder the responsibility to consolidating Pakistan's innings from thereon, just dropped anchor. They weren't taking any risks, nor displayed any intent to get going. After a point, this approach to play-out-50-overs-and-a-win-is-guaranteed came to threaten them when the required rate popped above seven-an-over and the surface wasn't becoming any easier to bat on.

Pakistan further complicated the chase with two runs outs at crucial junctures in the innings - Sarfraz Ahmed and Shadab Khan falling short while attempting quick twos. They had their share of luck, with some fielding errors and more importantly umpiring calls. For a game that played out as well as it did, the umpiring standards remained quite low.

Afghanistan had their own set of challenges to deal with. Hamid Hassan injured himself early in the day, and had to leave the field after bowling only two overs. However, Shenwari filled up well with his part-time offbreak, conceding only 32 runs in 8 overs. In possibly their finest showing in the tournament, it was Asghar Afghan, Afghanistan's ousted yet much-loved and respected captain, calling the shots. He made the field changes, gave pep talks and even consoled Naib when he went down after the 18-run over.

But it was a fight well-fought. On a challenging wicket and against an impressive bowling performance by Pakistan, Afghanistan's batsmen managed to post 227 after electing to bat. Several batsmen got off to starts, but barring 42s by Asghar Afghan and Najibullah Zadran, there were no significant contributions. Shaheen Afridi was the most impressive of the Pakistan bowlers, returning figures of 4 for 47. However, the score, against the skills of Afghanistan's spinners on a slow wicket, was ample to make for an equal contest.

However, in nervous moments, it was the more experienced team that managed to seal the deal. While Imad was far from fluent and impressive, his unbeaten 54-ball 49 helped Pakistan win by three wickets, pushed them to the top four and further strengthened their semifinal chances.

Brief Scores: Afghanistan 227/9 in 50 overs (Asghar Afghan 42, Najibullah Zadran 42; Shaheen Afridi 4-47, Wahab Riaz 2-29) lost to Pakistan 230/7 in 49.4 overs (Imad Wasim 49*, Babar Azam 45; Mohammad Nabi 2-23, Mujeeb ur Rahman 2-34) by 3 wickets.

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Original Link: https://www.cricbuzz.com/cricket-news/108746/icc-cricket-world-cup-2019-scratchy-imad-helps-pakistan-sneak-into-top-4

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