Asif Ali’s ‘insane’ feat puts Pakistan on brink of semis, Aussie openers set for old enemy

Cricket, featured, T20 World Cup 2021

Pakistan have made it three T20 World Cup wins from three with victory against Afghanistan in Dubai.

Having already beaten India and New Zealand, and with only matches against minnows Scotland and Namibia to come, Pakistan are almost certain to finish top of group 2 and book a semi-final place.

Pakistan’s bowlers set up their Friday’s success, taking four wickets in the power play before going on to limit Afghanistan to 6-147.

Whilst Afghanistan briefly threatened an upset in an increasingly tense finish, Pakistan held their nerve to win with five wickets and an over to spare, Asif Ali thumping four sixes in the penultimate over from Karim Janat.

“The boundary was small from this end so I told my partner I’d go for it,” Asif said. “Thank God we pulled it off.”

“Afghanistan have some of the best spinners, they were getting a lot of help and bowling really well,” Pakistan captain Babar Azam, who scored 51, said.

“I wanted to stay till the end but got out unfortunately. So credit to Asif Ali.

“Asif has played many such innings at the Pakistan Super League. I was very confident he’d get us out of any trouble,” Babar added.

“We didn’t start really well, the total on the board was decent but maybe not enough,” Nabi said after their first loss of the tournament.

“There are many positives to take from this match. We fought to the end and it’s given us more motivation to win games.”

Afghanistan’s Mohammed Nabi said: “We didn’t start really well, the total on the board was decent but maybe not enough.

“There are many positives to take from this match. We fought to the end and it’s given us more motivation to win games.”

This was one of the most-keenly anticipated matches locally and the atmosphere was electric. But such was the demand there were still thousands outside the ground when the match began, and by the time many of them had got in the contest seemed to be effectively over.

Afghanistan’s batters went hard and early, and paid for it losing wickets in the second, third, fifth and sixth overs, all caught.

It was not until Nabi and Gulbadin Naib came together at 6-76 that the innings gained some stability.

The pair consolidated, then cut loose taking 43 off the last three overs, both finishing with 35 not out, Gulbadin off 25 balls, Nabi 32.

Mujeeb Ur Rahman made an early breakthrough, dismissing Mohammad Rizwan in his four over spell for 14 runs, but Pakistan looked on course for a relatively comfortable win at 1-72 off ten overs when Rashid Khan was finally introduced.

He and Nabi quickly took three wickets between them, including Babar, bowled having a wild swing at Rashid’s last ball for 51, one ball after being dropped.

That changed the mood and when Naveen-ul-Haq had Shoaib Malik caught for 19 Pakistan needed 24 off 13 balls with two new batters at the crease.

However, just as Afghanistan fans began dreaming of a famous triumph, Asif Ali took aim at the medium pace of Karim Janat.

He cleared the long-off boundary off the first ball, the midwicket boundary off the third ball and powered another six down the ground off the fifth ball.

He then crunched Janat’s sixth ball for six over extra cover to complete a seven-ball 25 and Pakistan’s victory.

Meanwhile, Australia vice-captain Pat Cummins has backed Aaron Finch to continue building into the Twenty20 World Cup as the skipper and fellow opener David Warner aim to put England to the sword.

Warner grabbed the headlines when he top-scored with 65 in the comfortable win over Sri Lanka, keeping Australia’s unbeaten start intact.

David Warner scores a 50 against Sri Lanka

(Photo by Matthew Lewis-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

But Finch’s return to form with 37 from 23 balls was just as important for his side’s hopes of going deep into the tournament as they chase a first T20 crown.

The 34-year-old’s knock was his best in four months and ended his short spell of patchy form with the bat since recovering from knee surgery.

Finch and Warner combined for a 70-run stand, including 63 runs in the highest opening powerplay score of the tournament so far, sounding a warning to England ahead of Sunday morning’s (AEDT) heavyweight clash.

“He’s done really well to come back from injury and hasn’t played a heap of cricket over the last few months, but I thought he looked fantastic (against Sri Lanka),” Cummins said of Finch.

“He was taking the game on with a couple of his trademark big hits down the ground.

“It was a wonderful opening partnership with those two showing how good they are, and they’re going to be huge for us.”

Warner had endured a run of poor T20 form before breaking the shackles against Sri Lanka.

The powerful left-hander shapes as one of the biggest hurdles in England”s quest to reclaim the Ashes in Australia this summer and is crucial to his own side’s chances of advancing from a difficult Super 12 group to the World Cup semi-finals.

“He’s a big-game player, he likes taking on the big teams,” Cummins said.

“I’m sure tomorrow you’ll see him really puffing his chest out and he’s someone that our whole team really loves playing alongside.

“We all go with him and back him up, and it’s fantastic to see him back in the runs.

“He’s such a good player, we always knew that they weren’t far away.”

© AAP

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