Shoaib Malik remained unbeaten on 51 off 43 balls.
Shoaib Malik remained unbeaten on 51 off 43 balls.

Afghanistan did everything right in a bid to register their third straight victory in the 2018 Asia Cup against Pakistan in the second match of the Super Four at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi on Friday, until pacer Aftab Alam bowled a half-tracker in the second ball of the last over of the match.

Shoaib Malik pulled it for a six and then lead his team to a tense victory with a boundary as Pakistan chased down 257 with three balls to spare. Malik remained unbeaten on 51 off 43 balls.

Imam ul Haq (80) and Babar Azam (66) had set a solid platform earlier with a stand of 153 runs 32.2 overs before Afghanistan clawed back into the game removing both the set batsmen in the space of just three overs and kept the leash on the run-rate.

Pakistan’s middle-order crumbled under pressure.

Haris Sohail went for a pull of a length ball to be caught at long on, while skipper Sarfraz Ahmed missed a full toss to be cleaned up. With five over of Rashid Khan and Mujeeb ur Rahman to negotiate out of the seven remaining, Malik held fort even as he lost Asif Ali to Rashid. Allrounder Mohammad Nawaz got one over the cow corner, but Rashid had his number.

Malik continued to graft it out by rotating the strikes and watchfully played out the big threats – Rashid and Mujeeb. He then pulled out a Hail Mary taking on Alam in the final over with 10 needed off five and got the two crucials blows. Alam, at the other end, broke down.

The tense Sarfraz was elated, coach Mickey Arthur let out a shout, and one could have mistaken those celebration for a win over India. That’s how close the Asghar Afghan-led side ran Pakistan.

Afghanistan were impressive  and the only flaw in their performance was their inability to overcome the nerves in the death overs, especially while fielding. Rashid returned 10-0-46-3 while Mujeeb registered 10-2-33-2.

Earlier, Fifties from skipper Asghar Afghan (67) and middle-order batsman Hashmatullah Shahidi (97*) helped Afghanistan post a healthy 257 for six in 50 overs after they opted to bat first.

Openers Mohammad Shahzad and Ihsanullah Janat hang around for 26 runs before left-arm spinner Nawaz removed the openers in quick succession.

However, Afghan, who started his innings with a six and Shahidi kept the Pakistan bowlers at bay and went about their business in a slow manner. They were aided by poor catching by Pakistani fielders, who dropped a total of five catches in the innings. They picked up the pace in the Powerplay overs and added 94 runs for the fourth wicket in 16.3 overs.

Pakistan though come back in the death overs removing with three quick wickets. 18-year-old left -arm pacer Shaheen Afridi, on debut, picked two wickets in his second spell to finish with 10-0-38-2.

Brief Scores: Pakistan 258/7 (Imam Ul Haq 80, Babar Azam 66; Rashid Khan 3/46) beat Afghanistan 257/6 (Hashmatullah Shahidi 97, Asghar Afghan 67; Mohammad Nawaz 3/57) by three wickets.