Pakistan avoid Afghan scare
Pakistan 248/8 ( U Akmal 102*)
Afghanistan 177 ( Noor Ali 44)
Afghanistan’s tight and accurate bowling kept Pakistan on back foot for most part of the 1st innings but a superb ton from Umar Akmal helped Pakistan reach 248 in 50 overs. Afghan fast bowlers offered very few loose deliveries and choked the Pakistani top order as most of them got out bling slogging. At once, 200 was looking difficult for Pakistan when they were struggling at 117-6 but Umar Akmal singlehandedly kept the scoreboard ticking and brought back respectability in Pakistan’s total.
Afghanistan openers in reply started rapidly, Mohammad Shahzad hit the first ball for four from Umar Gul. Noor Ali Jardan was batting beautifully on the other end with classic back foot cover drives and flashy flicks. But the opening partnership was broken when Billy Bowden gave Shahzad caught behind off an Umar Gul riser when Afghans were 32 in quick time. But the Afghan batsmen felt the heat when they faced the top class spin unit from Pakistan. Ajmal, Afridi and Hafeez kept Afghanistan batsmen quiet and the asking run rate was soaring rapidly as Afghan batsmen found it difficult to rotate strike. Saeed Ajmal picked up Asghar Stanikzai in his very first over which caused Asghar Stanikzai and Nawroz Mangal to go into shell and scored 74 in 18.1 overs. Asghar Stanikzai scored 40 from 93 deliveries and then got out. The Afghan innings never recovered from there and they lost the last 7 wickets cheaply for just 37 runs facing Pakistan spin, ensuring a bonus point win for the Pakistanis.
Mohammed Hafeez took 3 wickets, but credit has to be given to Shaeed Afridi and Saeed Ajmal, as they choked the Afghan batsmen and made sure the asking run rate soared beyond their capability. Ajmal took 2 and Afridi took 1 wicket.
Earlier, Pakistan’s innings was an ideal example of gifting wickets under pressure. But, Umar Akmal showed a lot of responsibility, doing justice to his talent. Akmal scored his 2nd ODI ton and made sure Pakistan was out of trouble. He showed a lot of character in hanging out with Anwar Ali when Pakistan was in deep trouble. He unleashed his awesome strokes in last 5 overs of the innings and reached his hundred with a massive six over long on in just 88 deliveries.
Considering the fact that it was Afghanistan’s only third appearance against any test opponent, they had shown a lot of character and promise to be a good team. It will be interesting to follow their progress in the rest of their matches in Asia Cup.