8 is the charm after all. Afghanistan has finally got the hold of its neighbours, at the biggest stage possible. This is the first time they have won twice in the same World Cup tournament, a dominating all-round performance to put Pakistan on the verge of elimination. The mighty Pakistan bowling attack seemed toothless in front of the Afghan batting power. Chennai witnessed another memorable World Cup match, the show continued at the the most prestigious tournament in cricket entering the business stage.
Pakistan made one change to their squad that lost to Australia in the previous game. The Chennai pitch looked to favour the spinner and Pakistan opted for another wrist spinner. Mohammad Nawaz was replaced by Usama Mir. Afghanistan opted for a spin quartet with a wide range of deliveries. Teenager Noor Ahmed came in for Fazalhaq Farooqi in the playing eleven. He completed a quartet of spinners with Rashid, Mujeeb, and Nabi already in the team.
- Abdullah Shafique 2. Imam-ul-Haq 3. Babar Azam (Cap.) 4. Mohammad Rizwan (WK) 5. Saud Shakeel 6. Iftikhar Ahmed 7. Shadab Khan 8. Usama Mir 9. Shaheen Afridi 10. Hasan Ali 11. Haris Rauf
- Rahmanullah Gurbaz 2. Ibrahim Zadran 3. Rahmat Shah 4. Hashmatullah Shahidi 5. Azmatullah Omarzai 6. Ikram Alikhil (WK) 7. Mohammad Nabi 8. Rashid Khan 9. Mujeeb Ur Rahman 10. Naveen-ul-Haq 11. Noor Ahmed
Pakistan skipper Babar Azam won the toss and decided to bat first on a fine-looking Chennai surface. The pitch looked slow and the batsmen needed to generate some pace off the bat to score some runs. The seamers would get some early movement off the pitch.
|Venue||The 22nd game of the 2023 World Cup was played at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai, Tamil Nadu.|
|Date||The game started from 02:00 pm IST on Monday, October 30|
Captaincy & Tactics
Afghanistan was trying to deploy their SPN versatility to perfection: three wrist spinners and an off-spinner to dismantle the batting order. The decision to play Noor Ahmed was a savvy one with the youngster taking three important wickets to halt the Pakistani progress. The Afghan spinners bowled on a good line, with most of them attacking the stumps. Hashmatullah Shahidi also used his pacers wisely to restrict Pakistan to a score of 300.
Babar Azam’s captaincy has been called into question several times already. He brought back Haris Rauf on the 38 over of the Afghan innings with the Pakistanis desperately searching for a wicket. Rauf bowled brilliantly and conceded only 4. The wise decision would be to pile on the pressure by continuing Rauf. But Babar thought otherwise and put Shadab Khan on the attack. Shadab conceded 4 from that over. But the surprise came when he was back to deliver the 42nd over. Shadab conceded 10 runs to release all the pressure that has been applied on the batting side.
Babar Azam made a ludicrous decision again on the 46th over. Afghanistan needed 30 off 30 at that point. Usama Mir had a tough game up to that point. The young spinner lacked the required experience to absorb the pressure at that point of the match. Usama crumbled under duress and conceded 11 to make the equation easier for the Afghans. Babar Azam’s leadership qualities will surely come under scrutiny after the World Cup with massive dissenting among the fans.
Abdullah Shafique has only played 8 ODI matches in his short career. But he has entered the team in the most seamless way possible. 4 of his 8 games have come at this World Cup. He has scored 255 runs at an average of 63.75, striking at 96.95 per 100 balls. Shafique posted his 3rd 50+ score of this tournament with some mind-blowing shots. He maneuvered his stance to adapt to the pace of the pitch and hit through the line.
Babar Azam has struggled in this tournament except for the India game. The critics have made the most out of this opportunity, Babar produced a fine innings to silence them for now. It was a counterpunch in the face of adversity, a 74-run innings typifying the man’s class. Babar hit 4 boundaries and a massive six over the cow corner on his way to the big score. He surely felt frustrated by getting out cheaply once again, chipping a wide delivery straight to the short midwicket fielder.
Iftikhar Ahmed showed plenty of promise when he hit three sixes against Australia in pursuit of a massive target. He hit four sixes on this occasion on his way to making 40 runs from just 27 balls. Iftikhar’s bombastic innings had a strike rate of 148.14. The same thing can’t be said about the Shadab innings who played the same amount of balls. Shadab managed to score 38, failing to deliver big blows to get close to the 300 mark.
Ibrahim Zadran had failed to reach a fifty before this match. The opener had struggled for form of late, Rahmanullah Gurbaz was the in-form batter at the top of the Afghan innings. But the tables turned on this occasion with Zadran turning out to be the deadlier one. His 2023 stats in the ODIs are a good read: scoring 651 runs at an average of 43.40. There were some scintillating cover drives on show, Zadran picked up 4 boundaries through this particular shot.
Rahmat Shah is Afghanistan’s highest run-getter in ODI World Cups. He has scored 404 runs in 14 games. The 30-year-old displayed unwavering resilience throughout his innings by playing sensibly. His lofted on drive six off Hasan Ali will remain in the memory of the Afghan cricket enthusiasts. Shah was in command of his innings, controlling 87% of his 84-ball innings.
Noor Ahmed might be the youngest player at this World Cup, but he has an aura of maturity around him. The only teenager in this tournament bowls with courage and intent, not afraid to pitch it short. The Gujarat Titans bowler picked up three wickets that included the valuable scalps of Babar and Rizwan. He finished with 3 for 49.
Mohammad Nabi is often overlooked due to his lack of wickets. But the veteran off-spinner performs his role to perfection albeit silently. He stemmed the flow of runs with 37 dot deliveries. Mujeeb was wayward at times, he conceded 55 from 8 overs. Half of Rashid Khan’s 60 deliveries were dot balls. He finished with a figure of 1 for 41. The pace bowlers were expensive, Pakistani batters were able to take 102 runs from 12 overs of fast bowling.
The form of Shadab Khan has been a massive cause of concern for the Pakistan team. The all-rounder is a wonderful fielder but rarely matches that level with either ball or bat. He remained wicketless after 8 overs of leg spin, conceding 49 runs. Shadab averages 45.86 in this year with a strike rate of 47.8. The dip in form needs to change quickly if Pakistan wants to go further in this tournament.
Haris Rauf’s habit of a costly first over continued with 17 conceded against Afghanistan. The pacer has given away 65 runs in four of five first overs in the tournament. He bowled with pace but lacked direction in the first spell. A much improved second spell was inexplicably thwarted by skipper Babar, who opted for Shadab instead.
Shaheen Afridi has been the shining light of the Pakistan attack with his ability to generate reverse swing at the death. But his lack of wickets during the powerplay is hurting Pakistan badly. Afridi managed only one wicket in this match, he claimed five wickets against Australia. He was on the shorter side with length with 56% of his deliveries pitching in that region.
Hasan Ali was the pick of the Pakistani bowlers with 2 wickets for 44 runs. Usama Mir remained wicketless and conceded 55 runs. The lack of impetus in the spin department is holding back the team on the spin-friendly Indian wickets. Iftikhar’s 5 overs yielded 27 runs with Afghanistan reaching victory with 6 balls to spare.
It was a good day in the field for Afghans. They took sharp catches and produced some good moments on the boundary line. There were some fine catches with Naveen, Nabi, Omarzai, and Mujeeb completing their grabs.
It was another typical bad performance by the Pakistan fielders. They missed numerous balls on the boundary line. Throws were wayward which cost extra runs in resulting overthrows. Half-chances were not taken as the game slowly slipped out of their reach. This tradition needs to change if Pakistan wants to win any ICC tournaments in this age of peak athleticism and top-level fitness.
Babar Azam finally got a big score in this World Cup winner as he made a fine 74 off 92 balls. Abdullah Shafique continued his rich vein of form with a craftily made 58. Iftikhar Ahmed showed some muscle power during the final overs with a stroke-filled 40 from 27 balls. Noor Ahmed made his World Cup debut memorable with a three-wicket haul. Naveen-Ul-Haq claimed 2 wickets by bowling fast.
Ibrahim Zadran found his form back at the right time with a wonderful 87-run inning. Rahmat Shah anchored the innings with a mature 77. Rahmatullah Gurbaz showed some firepower with 65. Hasan Ali bowled with intent and claimed a wicket. Shaheen Afridi got a wicket by conceding 58 runs.
Rahmat came onto the pitch after Rahmanullah Gurbaz got dismissed with the score ar 130/1 after 21.1 overs. Shah is Afghanistan’s highest run scorer at the World Cup tournaments but has been struggling for form of late. The innings needed a cool head at the other end with Zadran firing on all cylinders. Rahmat Shah delivered exactly what the team needed – a steady hand till the end.
After Zadran got out, Shah built another solid partnership with captain Hashmatullah Shahidi in the middle. The asking rate eventually climbed over 6 runs for the first time due to the lack of attacking shots. Shah changed gears at the right moment to keep the run rate in check. Afghanistan would reach the target with relative ease, Shah took center stage with a memorable knock of 77 runs.
Afghanistan recorded their first victory against their neighbors by 8 wickets with 6 balls to spare. It is their first win against Pakistan after seven failed previous attempts.
Player of the Match
Ibrahim Zadran won the Best Player of the Match award for his stunning innings of 87 runs from 113 balls.
|Pakistan Total: 282/7 (50 overs)||Afghanistan Total: 286/2 (49 overs)|
|Babar Azam 74 (92)||Ibrahim Zadran 87 (113)|
|Iftikhar Ahmed 40 (27)||Rahmat Shah 77* (84)|
|Noor Ahmed 3/49||Hasan Ali 1/44|
|Naveen-ul-Haq 2/52||Shaheen Afridi 1/58|
It was the most memorable victory in the history of Afghan cricket. It would be harsh to label this as an upset because of the domination shown by the Afghans throughout the match. They made the best use of the pitch with a fine display of pace bowling. Then a collective batting performance rounded with maturity made them claim a famous win against a formidable opponent. Pakistan’s bowling attack came short once again, they would look to keep their World Cup hopes alive on Sunday against South Africa.