by: Atika Mehboob TN Sport Pakistan:
In their fifth game of the 2023 World Cup, Afghanistan clinched their first victory against Pakistan in an ODI, after seven previous attempts. On one of the most prominent stages, Afghanistan triumphed in Chennai by chasing down 283 with eight wickets in hand and six balls to spare, marking their highest successful chase in ODIs. This win also set the record for the highest successful chase against Pakistan in a World Cup game.
Considering Afghanistan’s earlier performance against England, this victory might not be considered an upset. Their strategic approach enabled them to move to the sixth position on the table.
Babar Azam’s decision to bat first seemed apt as he, along with Abdullah Shafique, contributed with commendable fifties. Iftikhar Ahmed and Shadab Khan’s contributions further bolstered Pakistan to reach 282 for 7.
Afghanistan’s response was aggressive and calculated. The opening partnership between Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran was instrumental, with both scoring fifties. After their dismissal, Rahmat Shah and Hashmatullah Shahidi seamlessly took over, ensuring victory in 49 overs.
The Afghan openers began robustly, especially against Pakistan’s key bowler, Shaheen Shah Afridi. With efficient boundary shots and even better running between the wickets, they quickly crossed the 100-run mark. The Pakistani side appeared unsettled with their inconsistent fielding.
Rahmat, upon his entry, maintained the scoring momentum. Ibrahim’s departure at 87 did not deter Afghanistan’s progress as Shahidi and Rahmat combined to score 96 runs without losing a wicket. Their composed demeanor stood out during the chase.
Pakistan’s bowlers struggled throughout, finding it hard to extract any advantage from the pitch. Rahmat’s unbeaten 77, accompanied by Shahidi’s 45-ball 48*, culminated in Afghanistan’s victory, which was met with elation from the team.
Pakistan’s initial innings was segregated into distinct phases: a strong start in the first 15 overs, followed by Afghanistan’s spinners gaining control in the next 25, and finally, Pakistan amassing 91 runs in the last ten.
The Chennai pitch, previously used for India’s match against Australia, prompted Afghanistan to strengthen their spin department, though this seemed counterproductive in the initial overs. Pakistan’s impressive start included their first six after 1169 balls in powerplays that year.