Pakistan 268 for 8 wickets (Rizwan 67, Babar 60, Naib 2-36, Farid 2-70) beat afghanistan 209 (Mujeeb 64, Kamal 37, Shadab 3-42, Shaheen 2-31) by 59 runs
No Naseem Shah, no Haris Rauf, no problem, Pakistan said as they produced another superb bowling performance to seal a 59-run win over Afghanistan to seal a 3-0 ODI win. Importantly, with this win, they also reached the top of the ODI rankings just ahead of the Asia Cup.
Chasing 269, Afghanistan needed a strong start from their openers which they never got. It didn’t help that Ibrahim Zadran couldn’t open, as he spent the last few minutes of the first innings off the field and therefore had to call time before going out. Riaz Hasan and Rahmanullah Gurbaz were in trouble for Pakistan’s fast bowlers, while Faheem Ashraf caused the most problems.
Shaheen Shah Afridi got the ball to flick, but his radar was off initially. However, Ashraf was exemplary in terms of his line and length. He placed the ball outside off, in the channel behind a length and kept the batsmen guessing. He prized away the scalp of Gurbaz, who missed a straight ball and was trapped in front of the stumps after missing the flick. DRS confirmed that the ball might have touched the leg bail. After this Ashraf claimed Zadran, who was out on zero in 11 balls. Both the batsmen, who had scored 231 runs out of 252 in the second ODI, could only score 5 out of 26 runs in the third.
Hashmatullah Shahidi and Riaz made a brief partnership of 30 runs for the third wicket but 61 balls were played. There were plays and misses throughout as Pakistan bowlers stuck to a plan and more importantly, executed well.
Riaz’s innings of 34 off 66 balls was ended by Shadab, who also sent back Shahidi in the same over, as Afghanistan suffered a defeat. From 60 for 2 wickets, they dropped to 75 for 6 wickets and then to 97 for 7 wickets. At the time, it seemed as if another quick end was certain. But Mujib and Shahidullah Kamal captured the fort.
They added 57 runs in 42 balls for the eighth wicket, with Mujeeb doing most of the damage. The only Afghan batsman to show intent, he hit five fours and five sixes during his innings, which ended with a hit-wicket dismissal. He had chances, he capitalized on them and frustrated the bowlers immensely.
Before this, Pakistan had two half innings. Only 103 runs were scored in the first 30 overs, 165 runs were scored in the last 20. The batsmen did not look comfortable at any level. Babar and Rizwan added 110 runs for the third wicket, but took 145 balls and hit 84 dots. As it turned out, it was his innings that laid the foundation of Pakistan’s batting.
Fakhar Zaman, surrounded by criticism, attacked Fazalhaq Farooqui in the beginning and hit five fours in 20 balls. On the other hand, Imam-ul-Haq continued to struggle throughout. He played two consecutive maiden overs off Mujeeb and in general lacked timing.
Pakistan still managed to score more than four runs per over, with Fakhar finding his rhythm. But a change in bowling brought the hosts back into the game. Gulbadin Naib, playing his first game in the series, made an immediate impact.
A few outswingers beat Fakhar’s outstretched blade before he tried a release shot, only to miss a length ball, which was well stopped by Riaz. After this the Naib also removed the Imam. He came down the track sharply to a short-of-length ball outside off, but could only get a thick edge with Gurbaz doing the rest.
Babar and Rizwan came together in the 13th over and scoring runs in the next few overs became a big task. Only four fours were hit in the next 18 overs, taking the run rate below 3.50.
But after the drink both of them flicked the switch. Pakistan scored 85 runs between 31 and 40 overs to take the lead. Rizwan was one of the few to break the shackles and brought up his tenth ODI half-century off 69 balls, while Babar soon joined him and reached the historic feat in 77 balls.
However, both the batsmen failed to score three figures. While Rashid Khan took an outside edge off Babar, Rizwan was out LBW off Farid Ahmed. Meanwhile, Afghanistan also ran out Saud Shakeel, leaving Pakistan at the loss of 3 wickets for 9 runs in 15 balls. However, Mohammad Nawaz and Aga Salman made sure to give Pakistan a good ending. They made a partnership of 61 runs in 47 balls for the seventh wicket. Afghanistan, who had shown excellent fielding in the top half of the innings, started making mistakes. There were many misfields and missed chances and Pakistan easily crossed the 250-run mark with 80 runs scored in the last ten overs.
Ashish Pant is sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo