Naseem stuns Afghanistan again as Pakistan win thrilling Second ODI

HAMBANTOTA - Naseem Shah once again proved his mettle as a composed finisher after Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam’s half-centuries as Paki­stan came from behind to edge Afghanistan by one wicket in a nail-biter on Thursday. 

Afghanistan started things steadily after winning the toss, as their openers dealt with Pakistan’s pace attack sen­sibly. Rahmanullah Gurbaz charged at Pakistani bowlers, while Ibrahim Zadran anchored through the innings, amid the frustration of Pakistani bowlers, who bowled Afghanistan inside 20 overs in the last match at a paltry total of 59. 

Afghanistan openers knitted a brilliant 227-run opening stand, which is the sec­ond-highest opening stand against Paki­stan in ODI cricket. Rahmanullah Gurbaz reached his fifth ODI hundred during the partnership before it was broken by Us­ama Mir. Ibrahim Zadran departed after scoring 101-ball 80 runs, featuring six boundaries and two sixes. 

Meanwhile, Rahmanullah Gurbaz con­tinued the onslaught and reached the 150-run mark before being caught be­hind off Shaheen Afridi. His brilliant 151 runs innings featured 14 boundaries and three sixes. Pakistani bowlers did a remarkable job in the death overs to re­strict Afghanistan to 300 in the allocated 50 overs. Shaheen Afridi picked up two wickets, while Usama Mir and Naseem Shah contributed with a wicket each. 

In a post-match talk, 

In the aftermath of the match, Shadab Khan, player of the match, said: “Experi­encing these phases is a common occur­rence for senior players like me. I make a conscious effort to maintain a composed demeanor. The pitch conditions were... given that their team boasts world-class spinners, I opted to tackle the fast bowlers. Considering the lengthy boundaries, my strategy revolved around securing twos rather than boundaries. Reflecting on that pivotal shot [during the World Cup match] that ended against Zimbabwe, I took the blame for the game’s outcome. That mo­ment held significant importance for me.” 

In his remarks, Pakistan Captain Babar Azam said: “Full credit goes to the entire team. During Imam and my partner­ship, our focus was on constructing a robust alliance, with an aim to sustain our presence well into the 40-over mark. We were well aware that we could suc­cessfully chase down a target of 80 to 90 runs within the last 10 overs. Naseem also displayed his mettle in high-pres­sure situations. When it comes to facing spin bowling, I persistently strive for en­hancement. Contentment never settles in; there’s always room for improve­ment. Our attention is now directed to­wards the upcoming final match.” 

Hashmatullah Shahidi, Afghanistan’s captain, said: “The defeat stings because we had accumulated a substantial run tal­ly, only to witness the game slip from our grasp in the final moments. Specifically, in the 49th over, there were some deliveries that should have been easier to handle, yet they were capitalised on by the op­position batsmen. The consistent perfor­mance of our opening duo has spanned a year and a half, and I hope they main­tain this momentum. Both teams show­cased commendable skills. However, the mounting pressure eluded our control.”

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