Pakistan reach ODI Rankings summit with Afghanistan sweep

COLOMBO - A collective bowling effort after Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan’s half-centuries, led Pakistan to the top of the ODI Rankings with a clean sweep victory in the PAK vs AFG ODI series. 

Set to chase 269 in the third ODI, Af­ghanistan could only raise 209 despite Mujeeb Ur Rahman’s brisk half-centu­ry. The hosts got off to a dismal start to the pursuit as they lost their in-form batters Rahmanullah Gurbaz (5) and Ibrahim Zadran (0) in the 10th over with just 30 runs on the board. 

Afghanistan’s new opener Riaz Has­san was then joined by captain Hash­matullah Shahidi and the pair raised 30 runs for the third-wicket stand. Riaz scored a cautious 34 off 66 de­liveries while Shahidi scored a 31- ball 13. Afghanistan then lost three more wickets in quick succession and slipped to 97/7 in 32.1 overs with both Mohammad Nabi (3) and Rashid Khan (16) back into the dugout. 

Coming out to bat at No 9, Mujeeb Ur Rahman launched a counterattack on the Pakistan bowlers with belligerent hitting. He put on an astonishing 57- run partnership with Shahidullah to keep Afghanistan in the hunt. Mujeeb dominated his eighth-wicket stand with Shahidullah by scoring the ma­jority of the runs while the latter fell victim to Shadab Khan in the 40th over. Shahidullah struck two boundaries on his way to a 65-ball 37. 

Mujeeb added 45 runs for the ninth-wicket stand with Fareed Ahmad before finally perishing in the 46th over. He top-scored for Afghanistan with a quick­fire 37-ball 64. Shaheen then wrapped a dominant 59-run victory for Pakistan as he castled Fareed (17) in the penulti­mate over. Shadab led the bowling attack for Pakistan with 3/42 while Shaheen, Faheem and Nawaz bagged two each. 

Opting to bat first, the green shirts ac­cumulated 268/8 at the back of anchor­ing half-centuries by Babar and Rizwan. Pakistan’s opening pair of Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq failed to provide a solid start. Fakhar scored 27 off 33 de­liveries while Imam struck 13. With the side reeling at 52/2 in 12.5 overs, Babar Azam was joined by Mohammad Rizwan and both added 110 runs amid their cautious stand with both scoring half-centuries before Rashid Khan provided a much-needed breakthrough to Afghani­stan, dismissing the Pakistan captain. 

He smashed four boundaries and a six on his way to an 86-ball 60. Pakistan then lost four quick wickets, including their mainstay M Rizwan, and slipped to 189/6 in 41 overs. Rizwan remained the top-scorer for Pakistan with a 79-ball 67 which featured six boundaries and a six. M Nawaz and Salman Ali Agha then stitched a vital 61-run partnership for the seventh wicket. Nawaz scored a brisk 25-ball 30 while Agha hammered a 31- ball 38. Fareed Ahmad and Gulbadin Naib bagged two wickets each for Afghanistan

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