Chennai October 24 2023 : Afghanistan produced their second stunning win of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 to beat Pakistan for the first time ever in a men’s ODI, winning by eight wickets in Chennai.
Set a target of 283 to win, Afghanistan’s top three all hit half-centuries as they produced a high-quality run chase to reach the target with eight wickets in hand and an over to spare.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz set the tempo early with a 53-ball 65 alongside fellow opener Ibrahim Zadran (87), before the excellent Rahmat Shah and Hashmatullah Shahidi finished the job with crucial contributions of 77* and 48* respectively.
Pakistan would have been happy enough with a total of 282/7 after being put under big pressure by Afghanistan’s four-pronged spin attack, led by the impressive Noor Ahmad (3/49).
Some big hits from Iftikhar Ahmed (40 from 27) lifted Pakistan to a competitive score after Abdullah Shafique (58) and Babar Azam (74) had set the platform.
But the target proved not quite big enough, as Afghanistan pulled off the historic chase.
Match 22: Afghanistan beat Pakistan by eight wickets
Afghanistan’s dangerous openers let fly at the start of the chase, scoring 60 runs without loss in the opening powerplay to give the side the start they needed before spin could really play a part.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz has been a key presence at the top of the order throughout the tournament, and set the tone when he found the boundary off Shaheen Shah Afridi’s very first ball of the innings.
And it was Gurbaz who put Pakistan’s other high-profile pacer to the sword early on, hitting four fours in five balls off Haris Rauf in the eighth over to keep the momentum going.
Both Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran brought up fifties as Afghanistan’s openers took the attack to Pakistan’s spinners after seeing off the pace threat.
But Gurbaz’s onslaught came to an end when he took on the returning Shaheen Shah Afridi to depart for 65 from 53 balls, giving Pakistan the breakthrough that they desperately needed.
Rahmat Shah’s joined Ibrahim to negotiate the tricky middle overs, and the pair brought the required runs down to double figures with a handy partnership, setting up a big finish in Chennai.
But Pakistan kept the game very much alive when Hasan Ali removed key batter Zadran for 87 to set up a nail-biting finish.
Afghanistan’s batting efforts have heavily leaned on their young opening pair in recent times, but the experience of Rahmat and Hashmattulah Shah shone through as the pressure built in the back end of the innings.
With the required run rate always manageable at around a run-a-ball, Rahmat and Hashmattulah steered their team home in style, prompting jubilant scenes amongst the Afghanistan squad.
Pakistan’s blueprint builds total of 282/7
Earlier, Babar Azam won the toss and opted to bat first on a dry and seemingly spin-friendly Chennai surface. His opposite number, Hashmatullah Shahidi, said that he would've done the same given the conditions.
Shadab came in for an ill Mohammed Nawaz to give Pakistan a second leg-spin option along with Usama Mir. For Afghanistan, Noor Ahmad came into the team in place of Fazalhaq Farooqi, meaning all of Afghanistan’s four full-time spin options started the game.
Pakistan started well, with Abdullah Shafique leading the Pakistan charge and Imam-ul-Haq providing him good support in the first powerplay. Together they hit eight boundaries in the first ten overs, including Pakistan's first six in the opening powerplay of an ODI this year.
Afghanistan made their first breakthrough when Azmatullah Omarzai struck off the very first ball of the 11th over. A short delivery was mistimed by Imam (17) and pulled into the arms of Naveen-ul-Haq at mid-wicket.
Imam’s departure brought captain Babar to the crease, and he started in a positive fashion alongside Shafique.
The spin-heavy middle overs saw Afghanistan get control of the game, with the Pakistan batters finding it tough to read the variations of Rashid Khan and Noor Ahmad, and the duo beating the bat on several occasions.
Shafique eventually fell to Noor for 58, going for a hasty sweep to try and up the rate and missing the ball, with the lbw decision given on review.
And Mohammad Rizwan also had difficulties in facing the excellent Noor, and fell after top-edging him to Mujeeb Ur Rahman at short fine leg for 8.
But captain Babar ensured that Pakistan got the platform that their tactics always sets out to build, putting together some handy partnerships with Saud Shakeel (25) and Shadab Khan (40).
And the lower order built on those foundations, with Iftikhar Ahmed’s brutal 40 causing the damage at the death.
Iftikhar, tasked with kicking on at the back end of the innings, slammed four maximums and departed for 40 from 27 balls in the final over of the innings.
Noor Ahmad finished with stand-out figures of 3/49, while Noor, Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi all finished with economies under five-an-over having each completed their full allocation of ten overs.
And the impact of those spinners and how they kept Pakistan’s innings in check proved crucial in the final analysis.
The result leaves both teams on four points after five matches of the tournament, with both still in with a chance of reaching the semi-finals.
Pakistan: Abdullah Shafique, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Saud Shakeel, Iftikhar Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Usama Mir, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf
Afghanistan: Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Ibrahim Zadran, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi (c), Azmatullah Omarzai, Ikram Alikhil (wk), Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Naveen-ul-Haq, Noor Ahmad