Afghanistan stun Pakistan to reach Asian Games final
The remarkable rise of Afghanistan up the cricketing world may have just seen its finest moment to date as Afghanistan beat Pakistan by 22 runs in the semi-final of the Asian Games cricket tournament today in China.
Put in on a slow wicket, Afghanistan started with an opening partnership of 35 between Mohammad Shahzad and Karim Sadiq. Sadiq's dismissal sparked a mini collapse to 55-4. Asghar Stanikzai and Shabir Noori then recovered the innings with a 45 run partnership for the fifth wicket.
The partnership was led mostly by Noori and he was the second of those two to get out, having scored 35 from 30 balls. That proved to be the highest score of the innings as Afghanistan made 125-8 from their 20 overs, a competitive total on what has been a low scoring ground all week.
In reply, Pakistan looked to be cruising towards their expected victory with the score on 60-1. But Afghanistan's spin duo of Mohammad Nabi and Karim Sadiq spun the game the way of the Afghans.
Nabi trapped Khalid Latif - who scored a century in the quarter final against China - lbw, and this sparked a collapse to 68-5. Hamid Hassan took the next two wickets to fall, and the run rate was climbing. Pakistan ended up needing an unlikely 27from the last over, to be bowled by Mirwais Ashraf.
They could only manage five, and Afghanistan had won by 22 runs, sparking wild celebrations amongst their players and coaching staff. This may not be the full Pakistan side, but it is still an impressive performance from the Afghans, and their requests for an ODI against the full Pakistan team can't be ignored for much longer.
Afghanistan's opponents in tomorrow's gold medal game will be Bangladesh, who easily beat what has been a disappointing Sri Lanka side by five wickets in today's second semi-final. Bangladesh have probably the strongest side of the three full members, but it would be a brave man to rule out Afghanistan's players having a gold medal being hung around their necks tomorrow.
In the entire history of the Asian Games, Afghanistan have won just a silver and bronze - both in taekwondo - so the players have the potential to take home their first gold medal and complete another chapter in the amazing story of the Afghanistan cricket team.