Shoaib Malik helps Pakistan win a thriller against Afghanistan

The first day of the Super Four stage of the Asia Cup belonged to India and Pakistan. While India thrashed Bangladesh with a seven-wicket victory, Pakistan dismantled a fully loaded undefeated Afghanistan. A 43-ball unbeaten 51 from Shoaib Malik ensured his team a victory in the last over. Malik, with 19 years of experience behind him, hit a six and four off back to back deliveries in the 50th over. Hence, Pakistan won their first game in the Super Group stage by 3 wickets with just three balls remaining.

Previously, before the start of the match, the closest to a thriller in this Asia cup was the game between India and Hong Kong. The minnows gave the jitters to the second best ODI team before the latter came back strong into the game to win by 26 runs. The real thriller of a show was the clash between Pakistan and Afghanistan wherein at a point Afghanistan had an edge over Pakistan. The latter started losing wickets after a point when they were at 154/1 while chasing a target of 258 set by Afghanistan. The well-equipped Pakistani bowling side could only manage to dismiss six Afghani batsmen but restricted them to a total of 257/6. Left-handed batsman Hasmatullah Shahidi produced an unbeaten 97 off 118 while Asghar Afghan had come up with a captain knock of 67 off 56 deliveries. 

Pakistan had lost their first wicket for zero runs, during the chase, in the last ball of the first over. Fakhar Zaman was declared out for LBW following his decision of not reviewing a certain inside edge. But they found their momentum in Imam-ul-Haq’s 80 off 104 and Babar Azam’s 94-ball 66. Afghanistan found their way back later into the game when they bagged the wickets of the two set Pakistani batsmen in the 34th and 36th over. The most celebrated Afghan bowler Rashid Khan playing his 50th ODI match has the most wickets for any bowler within that span. While skipper Sarfraz Ahmed, Asif Ali and Mohammad Nawaz fell cheaply, Shoaib Malik stood his ground and kept playing his shots. Afghanistan sent in their most expensive bowler for the night and also a wicketless Aftab Alam, as all other bowlers had their respective 10 overs exhausted. The first ball of the 50th over was a dot ball, but Pakistan could breathe their sigh if relief when the second ball was hit for a SIX followed by a boundary off the third. 

Malik used his experience of 19 years to finish the game for his team under an extremely tense situation. Looking at the numbers, he has played a little fewer matches(267: 294) and scored more runs(7024: 6273) and boundaries(681:615) than the rest of the ten batsmen in the playing XI combined. Quite naturally, he was adjudged as the Man of the Match for his match-winning 51*.

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