Pakistan’s 282 for 7 (Babar 74, Shafique 58, Noor 3-49, Naveen 2-52) were defeated by Afghanistan 286 for 2 (Ibrahim 87, Rahmat 77*, Gurbaz 65, Shahidi 48*, Hasan 1-41) by eight wickets.
7-1 or 8-0? No, that is not the one we are discussing. It was Afghanistan’s sixth World Cup match, and they had not defeated Pakistan in an ODI in seven attempts. They had come dangerously near to them at least twice, yet they were forced to endure heartbreak after heartbreak. But Afghanistan eventually broke the hoodoo—possibly on the grandest stage of them all. They achieved their most successful chase in One-Day Internationals by eight wickets in Chennai, needing only six balls to reach their target of 283 runs. Finally, a ‘W’ versus Pakistan, and 1-7 at that. In a World Cup match, it was also the most successful chase against Pakistan.
Does that qualify as an upset? Perhaps not after what Afghanistan did against England, not after the methodical way they moved up to sixth place on the table on Monday by chasing down the target.
Without hesitation, Babar Azam took to the bat first on a field devoid of grass blades. With the support of outstanding cameos from Iftikhar Ahmed and Shadab Khan, Babar and Abdullah Shafique’s fifties enabled Pakistan to record a commanding 282 for 7.
Afghanistan responded by being turned on like guys on a mission. Both Ibrahim Zadran and Rahmanullah Gurbaz scored fifty runs during their opening-wicket partnership of 130 runs. Rahmat Shah and Hashmatullah Shahidi took over when they left, leading the chase and finishing it in 49 overs.
Gurbaz picked Shaheen Shah Afridi to the fine-leg boundary to set up Afghanistan’s chase, and three balls later, Ibrahim drove Afridi through the covers. Afghanistan accelerated to sixty after nine overs when Gurbaz hit Haris Rauf for four fours in his opening over, while Ibrahim sent Hasan Ali to the cleaners.
They had excellent boundary running, but their running between the wickets was even better. They were also made easier by Pakistan’s careless fielding; they were dispersed over the ground.
Afghanistan broke the 100-run barrier in just 15.3 overs. Gurbaz and Ibrahim had both reached their sixties by then. Only in the 22nd over did Afridi force a top edge off Gurbaz’s blade, which was caught by deep third, to result in Pakistan’s first wicket.
But no panic stations. Rahmat entered and promptly set to work with his customary assiduity. Every time there was a line of dot balls, Rahmat or Ibrahim used a boundary to break the bonds. For the second wicket, they put on 60 runs off of 74 before Ibrahim, battling cramping, edged Hasan for 87.
Shahidi and Rahmat soon put an end to any ideas of a collapse or even a few fast wickets. They never once gave Pakistan a sniff as they put on 96 unbroken runs for the third wicket. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the chase was how serenely they conducted themselves.
Rahmat was still undefeated at 77 after hitting five fours and a six, but Shahidi hit a 48* off of 45 balls. The captain scored the game-winning run with a pull or flick off Afridi, setting up tearful scenes in the dugout.
There were three sections to the first innings: Pakistan dominated the first fifteen overs, the Afghan spinners dominated the following twenty-five overs, and Pakistan scored ninety-one runs in the final ten overs. And that appeared to have given them the advantage going into halftime.
Since the Chennai pitch was the same as the one used for India’s first-round match against Australia, Afghanistan added Noor Ahmad to their starting lineup in place of Fazalhaq Farooqi, making it four spinners overall. For the first fifteen overs, at least, the move appeared to have backfired.
In the first ten overs, Pakistan reached 56 for no loss—their greatest powerplay in the first ten innings of the World Cup. In these 10 overs, Abdullah Shafique smashed two sixes, marking another first and second. Pakistan’s first powerplay of the year came after 1169 balls.
With runs being leaked by both Naveen-ul-Haq and Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Pakistan had actually reached their 50 in 7.4 overs. At this point, Shahidi resorted to Mohammad Nabi, and the seasoned player stopped the run-scoring with his deft pace and length adjustments. At the other end, this helped Azmatullah Omarzai when Imam-ul-Haq misplayed a pull to short midwicket.
The innings was led by Babar and Shafique, with Shafique quickly hitting his second consecutive fifty off 60 balls. But as the ball became older and the surface a little more worn down, it began to perform a few additional tricks. Pakistan managed two fours and a six between the 16th and 31st overs, scoring 61 runs but lost two crucial wickets in the process. Noor delivered the decisive strikes to both.
He dismissed Shafique lbw first, then Mohammad Rizwan, with a wrong’un. Babar needed 69 balls to get to fifty before losing to Noor for seventy-four.
Pakistan appeared to be edging closer to a par total at 206 for 5 after 42 overs. However, Shadab and Iftikhar altered the script. The two destroyed what was a dismal effort at the end by the Afghanistan bowlers, scoring 73 off just 45 balls.
But in the end, the batters delivered.