Pakistan on brink of semi-finals after beating Afghanistan

Pakistan on brink of semi-finals after beating Afghanistan

Pakistan are on the brink of the semi-finals of the Men’s T20 World Cup after a thrilling five-wicket win against Afghanistan in Dubai.

In an enthralling match, Pakistan were cruising in a chase of 148 until captain Babar Azam was bowled by Rashid Khan for 51.

Shoaib Malik was caught behind in the next over but, with 24 needed from the last 12 balls, Asif Ali smashed four sixes in the 19th over to seal success with six balls to spare.

Asif finished with a stunning 25 not out from seven balls, sending a vocal crowd wild in the closing moments.

Afghanistan, who played their part in the thriller, were hauled to 147-6 by a battling unbeaten seventh-wicket stand of 71 between Mohammad Nabi and Gulbadin Naib, who both made 35 not out.

They were 76-6 after a high-octane start where Pakistan’s bowlers, and Afghanistan’s attacking approach, created an electric atmosphere.

Pakistan, undoubtedly one of the tournament favourites, are top of Group 2 with three wins from three games.

The other teams in the group, including India and New Zealand, have games in hand, but Pakistan play Namibia and Scotland – the two lowest-ranked teams left in the tournament – in their remaining games.

Friday was the day this tournament truly came alive. There had been standout moments without thrilling finales, but first West Indies beat Bangladesh on the final ball and then Asif brought bedlam to Dubai.

When Naveen-ul-Haq dismissed Malik and conceded only two runs in the 18th over, Afghanistan – from nowhere – were arguably favourites.

Asif, who also took Pakistan to victory with 27 not out against New Zealand in their last game, had faced one delivery but launched the first ball of the penultimate over, bowled by Karim Janat, over long-off into the stands.

Janat nailed two yorkers in the next three balls but Asif followed the first with a six over mid-wicket and the second with another over long-on.

That brought the equation to 12 runs needed from eight balls – still no certainty.

Asif’s clean, devastating hitting continued as he hammered the next two balls over the off-side to win the match in sensational style.

It was a finish reminiscent of the last World T20 final when Ben Stokes was hit for four consecutive sixes by Carlos Brathwaite in West Indies’ win and the England all-rounder tweeted the famous commentary line from that game following Asif’s heroics. (Courtesy BBC)

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