Pakistan 268 for 8 (Rizwan 67, Babar 60, Naib 2-36, Fareed 2-70) beat Afghanistan 209 (Mujeeb 64, Kamal 37, Shadab 3-42, Shaheen 2-31) by 59 runs
No Naseem Shah, no Haris Rauf, no problem, said Pakistan as they orchestrated another brilliant bowling performance to defeat Afghanistan by 59 runs and win the ODIs 3-0. Importantly, the victory also propelled them to the summit of the ODI rankings just before the Asia Cup.
Batting first on a two-paced surface in Colombo, Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan’s half-centuries enabled them reach 268 for 8. Afghanistan never truly found their footing on a pitch that appeared to have sped up under the lighting.
Mujeeb Ur Rahman attempted to cast a temporary wrench into Pakistan’s plans by scoring fifty off 26 balls and concluding with 64 off 37 balls. However, the objective proved to be insurmountable.
In the end, they were bowled out for 209 in 48.4 overs, with Shadab Khan claiming the most wickets with three for 42.
Afghanistan needed a powerful start from their openers in order to chase 269, but they failed to do so. Due to Ibrahim Zadran’s inability to open, he spent the last few minutes of the first inning off the pitch and had to serve time before walking out. Faheem Ashraf caused the most difficulty for Riaz Hassan and Rahmanullah Gurbaz against the Pakistani fast bowlers.
Shaheen Shah Afridi received the ball with the intent to spin it, but his radar was initially off. However, Ashraf was exceptional with his lines and lengths.
He kept the ball in the outside off, back-of-the-plate channel and kept the batters guessing. He took the crucial wicket of Gurbaz, who missed a direct delivery and was caught in front of the wickets when he attempted a flick.
DRS determined that the projectile would have struck the leg barrier. Ashraf then dismissed Zadran for a single off 11 balls.
The two batsmen, who had scored a combined 231 runs off 252 deliveries in the second ODI, could only muster 5 runs off 26 deliveries in the third.
Hashmatullah Shahidi and Riaz added 30 runs for the third wicket, but it took 61 deliveries to do so. There were plays and misses throughout the match, but the Pakistani bowlers kept to their strategy and, more significantly, delivered.
Riaz’s precarious 66-ball 34 was terminated by Shadab, who also dismissed Shahidi in the same over as Afghanistan faced a dire situation.
They dropped from 60 for 2 to 75 for 6 and then 97 for 7. At that moment, it appeared another abrupt conclusion was imminent. Mujeeb and Shahidullah Kamal, however, held the fort.
Mujeeb did most of the damage as the ninth wicket added 57 runs off 42 deliveries. He was the only Afghan batsman to demonstrate intent, hitting five fours and five sixes before being dismissed for hit-wicket. He utilised his opportunities to frustrate the bowlers to no end.
Previously, Pakistan’s innings consisted of two halves. The first 30 overs produced only 103 runs, while the final 20 overs produced 165. At no point did the batters appear relaxed.
Babar and Rizwan put on 110 runs for the third wicket, but it took them 145 deliveries and 84 gaps. In the end, their innings proved to be the cornerstone of Pakistan’s batting.
The under attack Fakhar Zaman began aggressively against Fazalhaq Farooqi, smashing him for five fours on twenty balls faced.
On the other hand, Imam-ul-Haq struggled throughout. He played consecutive no-balls against Mujeeb and lacked coordination in general.
With Fakhar establishing his rhythm, Pakistan was able to progress at a rate of just under four an over. But a bowling change brought the home team back into contention. In his first game of the series, Gulbadin Naib made an instantaneous impact.
A pair of outswingers defeated Fakhar’s extended bat before he attempted a release shot and miscued a length ball straight up, which Riaz caught with ease.
Then, Naib eliminated Imam as well. He dashed down the track to a short-distance ball outside off, but managed only a thick edge, with Gurbaz doing the rest.
After Babar and Rizwan joined forces in the 13th over, scoring runs in the subsequent overs became an arduous mission. In the subsequent 18 overs, only four fours were struck, and the run rate dropped below 3.50.
After consuming alcohol, however, the two individuals changed their behaviour. To up the ante, Pakistan scored 85 runs between overs 31 and 40.
Rizwan was the first to escape the shackles, reaching his tenth ODI fifty off 69 deliveries, while Babar joined him shortly thereafter off 77 balls.
Neither batter, however, recorded a score in the triple digits. While Rashid Khan induced an outside edge from Babar’s blade, Fareed Ahmed bowled Rizwan leg before wicket.
In between, Afghanistan also dismissed Saud Shakeel, resulting in Pakistan’s loss of 3 for 9 in 15 deliveries.
However, Mohammad Nawaz and Agha Salman ensured that Pakistan had a happy ending. They put together a 61-run partnership off of 47 deliveries for the seventh wicket.
Afghanistan, who were outstanding in the field during the first half of the innings, began to make errors. A number of misfields and missed opportunities allowed Pakistan to easily surpass 250, scoring 80 runs in the final ten overs.