Spirited Afghanistan caused yet another upset in the ongoing World Cup as they defeated Pakistan by eight wickets at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Monday, October 23. The day will go down in Afghanistan’s cricketing history as a memorable one as it is also the first time Afghanistan have managed to get the better of Pakistan in a 50-over contest.
The foundation of victory was laid down by the Afghan spinners, especially the young left-arm wrist spinner Noor Ahmad who recorded match-winning figures of 3/49 on his World Cup debut. Chasing 283 to script history, the Afghan opening pair of Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran got the team off to a praiseworthy start and put together 130 runs in 21.1 overs.
Rahmanullah fell after scoring his fifty (65 off 53 balls) to Shaheen Afridi but the strike rate at which he aggregated the runs was enough to give Afghanistan the edge early in the chase. His opening partner though, carried on and batted with aplomb to score 87 off 113 deliveries, including ten fours.
Ibrahim was involved in yet another crucial stand, this time with Rahmat Shah and stitched 60 runs to stabilise the tempo of the game. After the dismissal of Ibrahim, it all fell on the shoulders of Rahmat and Afghanistan skipper Hasmatullah Shahidi and the duo put together a gallant third-wicket stand to steer Afghanistan to victory.
Earlier in the day, Pakistan skipper Babar Azam won the toss and elected to bat first on a sporting wicket in Chennai to post a huge total on the board. The two Pakistan openers Abdullah Shafique and Imam-ul-Haq got the team off to a circumspect beginning as they added 56 runs for the first wicket.
However, the game turned on its head completely after the completion of ten overs as both openers and star wicketkeeper-batter Mohammad Rizwan fell inside the next 15 overs. The drastic change in the flow of play happened after the introduction of teenage spin sensation Noor Ahmad.
Noor, playing in his debut World Cup game dismissed Shafique after the latter scored yet another fifty in the ongoing edition. Shafique fell in the 23rd over and he was followed by Rizwan who also succumbed to Noor’s spin.
Babar played watchfully at one end and scored a gritty half-century. He got out in the 42nd over at an individual score of 74 and Pakistan were under the threat of getting restricted to a total below 250. However, quick-fire cameos from Iftikhar Ahmed (40 off 27 balls) and Shadab Khan (40 off 38 balls) pulled things back for the 1992 world champions and helped them post 282 for the loss of seven wickets in 50 overs.