So close for Afghanistan
Two bouncers in the last over cost Afghanistan a famous win over Pakistan in a Twenty20 International at Sharjah today.
Batting first after winning the toss, Afghanistan struggled in the early overs, especially against Sohail Tanvir, who bowled maidens in both of his first two overs. Both Afghan openers fell cheaply, and the Afghans were on the back foot on 7-2.
Najibullah Zadran led the recovery with 38 from 30 balls, whilst Mirwais Ashraf scored an unbeaten 28 -from 22 balls towards the end of the Afghan innings to help take his team to a total of 137-8 from their 20 overs. Junaid Khan was the pick of the bowlers with 3-24.
In reply, Pakistan kept pace almost exactly with the required run rate, keeping wickets in hand in the process. Going into the last over, they needed six to win with six wickets in hand.
Two runs were taken from the first three balls, giving Afghanistan a sniff at an upset. Dawlat Zadran then bowled a bouncer that sailed over the Pakistani batsman's head, signalled wide by the umpire. Shahid Afridi ran a bye to the keeper from the next ball, and Pakistan now needed two from two.
A single from the penultimate ball took Mohammad Hafeez to 42 and brought the scores level, before Zadran bowled another bouncer, this time signalled as a no-ball to give Pakistan the six wicket win.
A relatively comfortable win for Pakistan in the end, but the Afghans will be wondering what would have happened had Dawlat Zadran not bowled those bouncers in the final over.
The closeness of this match against such a strong opponent will give Afghanistan a lot of confidence that they can overcome Bangladesh in the preliminary round of the World Twenty20 in April next year. Their more immediate concern though will be the final of the Intercontinental Cup against Ireland which gets underway on Tuesday at the ICC Academy in Dubai.