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Cricket World Cup: Afghanistan beat Pakistan by 8 wickets in Chennai

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In the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup, Afghanistan beat Pakistan by 8 wickets at MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai. Chasing a target of 283 runs Afghanistan scored 286 runs in 49 overs.

The top three batters of Afghanistan hit half-centuries. Ibrahim Zadran was the top scorer for Afghanistan making 87 runs in 113 balls.

Noor Ahmad’s three wickets on World Cup debut and a 130-run opening stand headlined Afghanistan’s historic eight-wicket victory over Pakistan on a bone-dry surface in Chennai. It is the first time Afghanistan have beaten Pakistan in an ODI. It is also the first time Afghanistan have won two matches in a World Cup, the first one coming against defending champions England in Delhi last week.

Set a stiff target of 283 at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, Afghanistan openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran blazed off the blocks, hardly looking troubled against the likes of Shaheen Afridi and Hasan Ali. It formed the base for a largely untroubled chase from Afghanistan who knocked off the target with an over to spare. It happened to be their highest chase in ODIs, and the highest against Pakistan in World Cups.

The tone was set in the opening over bowled by Shaheen, which saw both openers hit a boundary each and accumulate 10 runs. The run-rate went further north with the introduction of Haris Rauf, who conceded four boundaries to Gurbaz in his opening over.

Afghanistan were sailing at 60/0 after 10 overs, all of which were bowled by pacers. Not that Usama Mir coming into the attack in the 11th over improved things. Pakistan lacked from their new-ball bowlers but especially from their spinners on a helpful track, which had eased out in the second half but not enough to guarantee a foolproof run-chase. Shadab Khan, back in the side for ill Mohammad Nawaz, missed his lengths once again and conceded 49 runs in his eight overs.

Zadran, the more steady of the two openers, got to his fifty, his fifth in ODIs, off 54 balls; Gurbaz, on the other hand, raced to his fourth ODI fifty off only 38 balls. Both batters combined to hit 19 fours and one six, the maximum coming off Gurbaz’s bat against Iftikhar Ahmed.

It took Pakistan 22 overs to strike for the first time in the match. Afridi bounced out Gurbaz with the first ball of his new spell and brought Pakistan some relief but by the time Hasan Ali delivered the next breakthrough, getting Zadran to edge an extra-bouncing delivery behind, Afghanistan had nibbled another 60 runs from the target.

Rahmat Shah and captain Hashmatullah Shahidi steadied the ship after Zadran’s dismissal for 87, fighting some sharp spin and the Chennai heat to keep ticking the runs even as Rauf and Hasan returned in vain for fresh spells. Rahmat finished unbeaten on 77* off 84 balls whereas Shahidi, who hit the winning boundary against Afridi, finished on 48* off 45 balls.

Pakistan spinners returned combined figures of 0-131 and were comfortably outbowled by their counterparts, who instead stood out with 4-176.

Earlier in the day, Babar Azam’s 30th ODI fifty and a big-hitting cameo from Iftikhar Ahmed helped Pakistan to 282/7. As many as 38 overs were bowled by the Afghanistan spinners, which is the third-most bowled in a World Cup match.

Things started on a positive note for Pakistan when Abdullah Shafique swung a Naveen-ul-Haq delivery for a maximum in the fifth over. It was the first six hit by a Pakistan batter in the PowerPlay in 2023. Both openers, Imam-ul-Haque and Shafique, looked at ease against the new ball in their 56-run opening stand.

Azmatullah Omarzai delivered the much-needed breakthrough when he had Imam caught off a familiar short ball at midwicket, and that wicket helped Afghanistan gain some control back. Shafique though continued having a good World Cup and raised a fifty off 50 balls, his second in the tournament to go along with a hundred.

It was Noor, in the side for Fazalhaq Farooqi, who broke the 54-run stand for the second wicket with strikes in back to back overs. The left-arm leggie first trapped Shafique lbw and then elicited a top-edge from Mohammad Rizwan, leaving Pakistan struggling on a tough surface to score.

Another 43-run stand between Babar and Saud Shakeel ensued but the slow pace of that partnership amped up the pressure. And before you knew it, Mohammad Nabi had got Shakeel caught at mid-on. Following on, Noor got the big wicket of Babar in the 42nd over, a moment that really threatened to knock the wind out of Pakistan. Luckily for them, Iftikhar came to the party, hitting a six off Rashid Khan to get going before laying into the likes of Naveen-ul-Haq and Azmatullah.

Iftikhar finished with 40* off 27, which included 2 fours and 4 sixes. Together with Shadab, he added 73 runs for the sixth wicket and delivered Pakistan to what looked like an above-par score at the halfway mark.

Noor, the youngest player to feature in this World Cup at 18, returned figures of 3 for 49 in his first World Cup match and helped Afghanistan with breakthroughs on a day their lead spinner Rashid Khan went wicketless. Mohammad Nabi slid a bit under the radar but his figures of 1 for 31 from his 10 overs played a huge role in tying down Pakistan in the middle overs.

Afghanistan play Sri Lanka in Pune next. And like Shahidi said at the post-match presentation, his side is looking for a few more points.

Brief Scores: Pakistan 282/7 (Babar 74, Iftikhar 40, Shadab 40; Noor 3-49) lost to Afghanistan 286/2 in 49 overs (Zadran 87, Rahmat 77*) by 8 wickets

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