Pakistan 131 for 9 (Shadab 36, Fareed 3-31, Farooqi 3-31) beat Afghanistan 129 for 6 (Ibrahim 35, Rauf 2-26, Naseem 1-19) by one wicket
Pakistan won a seesawing, low-scoring thriller to beat Afghanistan by one wicket in Sharjah, thus booking their date with Sri Lanka in the final of the 2022 Asia Cup. The result not only brought down the curtain on Afghanistan's campaign but also on defending champions India's.
Having restricted Afghanistan to 129 for 6 after winning the toss, Pakistan would have expected smooth sailing but Afghanistan's bowlers kept a lid on the scoring rate. After ten overs, Pakistan were 52 for 3.
Shadab Khan, promoted to No. 5, released the pressure with some lusty hits but Afghanistan kept picking up the wickets to stay in the contest. Still, it wasn't until Fazalhaq Farooqi's double-strike in the 18th over that Afghanistan had a real chance.
With 21 needed from two overs, Fareed Ahmad sent back Haris Rauf and the dangerous Asif Ali. That left Pakistan requiring 11 from the final over, with No. 10 Naseem Shah and No. 11 Mohammad Hasnain at the crease. But Farooqi missed his yorker twice in two balls, and Naseem despatched both full tosses over long-off to seal the game with four balls to spare.
Rauf, Hasnain strike after brisk start
Earlier in the day, Naseem kicked things off for Pakistan with a tight first over, but Hasnain struggled with his line and length. Rahmanullah Gurbaz took advantage of that, hitting Hasnain for back-to-back sixes in the second over.
Hazratullah Zazai once again had a circumspect start. He was on 8 off ten balls before Haris strayed on the pads. Zazai duly tucked it to the fine-leg boundary before punching the next ball through covers for four. Rauf then bowled one short, which Zazai ramped towards deep third where Naseem spilled the chance.
Rauf wasn't to be denied for long, though. Two balls later, he bowled Gurbaz, who tried to slog a length ball through midwicket but failed to connect. Zazai couldn't capitalise on the dropped chance either, with Hasnain castling him with a slower ball in the fifth over.
Shadab, Nawaz stifle Afghanistan
Afghanistan were 43 for 2 after five overs but Pakistan's spinners Shadab and Mohammad Nawaz put a brake on the scoring rate. In the next five overs, Ibrahim Zadran and Karim Janat managed just 29 runs. In an attempt to up the scoring rate, Janat took Nawaz on only to miscue a slog sweep to long-on.
Najibullah Zadran deposited Shadab over deep midwicket for a six, but he too holed out trying to repeat the shot later in the over. In the next over, the 15th of the innings, Naseem sent back Mohammad Nabi for a first-ball duck to ruin the Afghanistan captain's 100th T20I.
No strong finish
Ibrahim seems to be playing the anchor's role in this Afghanistan side but on the day was too slow even for that role. By the end of the 15th over, he had consumed 30 balls for just 26 runs. He did hit Shadab over covers for a six after that, but Rauf had him caught behind soon after for 35 off 37 balls.
Rashid Khan and Azmatullah Omarzai threw their bats around in the death overs, but the Pakistan fast bowlers kept them largely quiet with clever use of the slower ball.
Pakistan's slow start Babar Azam's streak of low scores in the Asia Cup continued as Farooqi trapped him lbw for a first-ball duck. In the fourth over, a flash of brilliance from Najibullah saw the back of Fakhar Zaman, who pushed one in the covers for a quick single. But Najibullah charged at the ball, picked it up with his right hand, turned around and nailed a direct hit at the bowler's end to find Fakhar short of his ground.
Mujeeb Ur Rahman was parsimonious with his quick googlies and carrom balls, conceding just five runs off his three powerplay overs. Afghanistan, though, needed regular wickets and Rashid didn't disappoint. In his second over, he trapped Mohammad Rizwan lbw with a googly to leave Pakistan 45 for 3 in the ninth over.
A seesawing contest
With 72 required from nine overs, Shadab opened up. He first hit Nabi for a six and a four, and followed it with another six off Mujeeb. However, Fareed and Rashid gave away just nine in the next three overs to make it 39 needed from the last four.
By now, Shadab was struggling with what looked like a quadriceps issue. He swept the first ball of the 16th over, bowled by Rashid, for a six but was taken near short third when he went for another big hit on the next ball. Afghanistan's celebrations, though, were short-lived as Asif slog-swept the following ball for another six.
Farooqi brought back Afghanistan in the game by dismissing Nawaz and Khushdil Shah in the 18th over. But Asif threatened to win it for Pakistan on his own, as he had done against the same opposition at the last T20 World Cup. With 18 needed from nine balls, he got one in the slot from Fareed and sent it over wide long-on for six.
Fareed banged the next one into the pitch, and Asif top-edged the hook to short fine leg. The pumped-up, in-the-face celebrations after the wicket resulted in Fareed and Asif almost getting physical before the two were separated.
Until then, Farooqi was the star of the match for Afghanistan but he failed to land his yorkers against Naseem, whose successive sixes led to frenzied celebrations in the Pakistan camp and a tearful exit for his opponents.