Afghanistan v Pakistan, only T20, Sharjah December 8, 2013

Pakistan prevail in last-over finish

ESPNcricinfo staff

Pakistan 138 for 4 (Hafeez 42*, Shehzad 35) beat Afghanistan 137 for 8 (Najibullah 38, Junaid 3-24) by six wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

A score of 137 wouldn't have appeared a match-winning one at the halfway stage of the match, but Afghanistan's bowlers made Pakistan fight till the final ball. Pakistan preserved wickets through their chase and though they lost only four, they were made to sweat against a side brimming with confidence having recently sealed their berth in the upcoming World T20. Mohammad Hafeez kept Pakistan afloat with an unbeaten 42 to set up a six-wicket win in the first ever T20 between the two countries.

At the start of the penultimate over, bowled by Hamid Hassan, Pakistan were still comfortably placed needing 16 with a set Hafeez on 32. Sohaib Maqsood's run out off the fourth ball gave Afghanistan hope but Hafeez calmed the nerves in the Pakistan camp with a streaky, under-edged boundary past the keeper off the last ball to bring the equation down to six from six.

Shahid Afridi pushed the first ball by the seamer Dawlat Zadran to midwicket for a single but Hafeez left the next, expecting it to be called a wide. Afghanistan had a chance to run out Hafeez off the third when he took a risky single to cover and nearly gave up. Zadran then employed the bouncer against Afridi but it backfired with the umpire penalising him for height. Afridi slogged and missed the next ball and stole a bye. Hafeez pinched a single to point, levelling the scores before the last ball. Zadran banged in another bouncer but it cost Afghanistan dear as it was signaled a no ball.

The finish was an anti-climax from the way Pakistan started. The openers Ahmed Shehzad and Sharjeel Khan had added 49 in 7.4 overs before Shehzad was caught at deep midwicket off Samiullah Shenwari. Shehzad dominated the stand with six fours. Sharjeel, on debut, made a steady 18 before he was caught at point off the off spin of Mohammad Nabi.

Afghanistan tightened things up conceding only 15 off the next three overs and no boundaries. Hafeez broke the drought when he launched Shenwari over long-on in the 14th over, leaving Pakistan 49 to get off the last six. Two more sixes, by Umar Akmal, brought the equation down to 27 off 23, comfortably in Pakistan's favour. However, immediately after launching Dawlat over long-on, Akmal dragged the next ball onto his stumps to give Afghanistan relief. However, Hafeez's presence meant that Pakistan still held the edge, despite Afghanistan's comeback.

The pressure began to mount with 21 required off 14, but a four to deep midwicket by Hafeez released the pressure and the captain took it upon himself to stay till the end and avoid a repeat of their shocking collapse against South Africa in an ODI at the same venue recently.

Earlier, a combined performance by Pakistan's bowlers restricted Afghanistan to a middling total. Afghanistan struggled to get going at the start, the score reading a sorry 8 for 2 after five overs. Asghar Stanikzai broke the shackles with two sixes in one over off Zulfiqar Babar but he fell soon after, bowled by Bilawal Bhatti.

The middle order, led by Najibullah Zadran, made starts but regular strikes kept them in check. Afghanistan had recovered well to score 92 in an eight-over period, ending in the 15th over. However, Pakistan clawed back by dismissing Najibullah for 38 and Afghanistan managed only 37 off the last five overs. In the final analysis, a few more could have made the difference.

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