Afghanistan has made a big statement in their build-up to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 aspirations as they defeated 1992 World Cup winners Pakistan by three wickets in the World Cup warm-up game at the County Ground in Bristol on Friday. Babar Azam’s century went in vain as Hashmatullah Shahidi’s unbeaten 74 and some calm batting from Mohammad Nabi ensured Afghanistan had the final say in the clash against their neighbours. Pakistan chose to bat and they got off to a solid start with Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman stitching a solid stand. However, the 47-run stand was broken by Hamid Hassan, playing his first game for Afghanistan after two years by getting rid of Imam for 32.
Mohammad Nabi struck twice by removing Zaman for 12 and Haris Sohail for 1. Azam and Mohammad Hafeez strung a partnership but Pakistan struggled for momentum. Shoaib Malik joined Azam and the duo revived Pakistan with some attacking cricket. Both batsmen found the boundary on a regular basis with Azam hitting legspinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman for two sixes in one over. The partnership between the two went past 100 but Malik fell for 44 when Nabi struck again.
However, Afghanistan bowled brilliantly in the last overs as Pakistan managed just 30 runs in the last six overs and they ended on 262, having failed to bat out the entire 50 overs. In response, Afghanistan started off in blazing fashion with Hazratullah Zazai and Mohammad Shahzad taking the attack to the Pakistan bowlers. Shahzad smashed two boundaries off Mohammad Amir but Zazai tore into Shaheen Afridi, blasting five fours in one overs.
There was a moment of worry for Afghanistan when Shahzad retired hurt due to an injured hamstring. Zazai, though, continued his brutal onslaught as he smashed Wahab Riaz for two sixes but he missed out on a fifty when he top-edged a slog sweep off Shadab Khan to be caught at deep midwicket for 49. Rahmat Shah and Shahidi then dug in and made steady progress as they kept up with the rate. When Rehmat fell for 32, Shahidi found the boundary on a regular basis and Samiullah Shenwari played the sheet anchor role.
Afghanistan stuttered in the middle overs when Rehmat fell for 32 and former skipper Asghar Afghan fell in quick succession. However, Shahidi and Nabi continued to bat brilliantly, with Shahidi notching up a fifty. With the equation boiling down to 27 off 30 balls, Pakistan had a glimmer of hope with Gulbadin Naib, Najibullah Zadran and Nabi falling in quick succession. Riaz and Mohammad Hasnain kept Pakistan in the hunt but Shahidi guided Afghanistan over the line with two balls to spare. This win will give Afghanistan plenty of hope as they aim to win against some big teams in the World Cup.