Cricket World Cup 2019: Imad Wasim drags Pakistan over the line in thriller against Afghanistan
All-rounder scores 49 to revive Pakistan's run-chase after Afghans looked on course for first victory of tournament
Earlier in this Cricket World Cup, Pakistan’s cricketers complained about the abuse they received from some sections of their supporters.
Which is a bit rich. It sometimes seems as though they are getting their own back by trolling those very same fans with the way they play.
Through some quirks of fortune, some belated high-quality performances, as well as no little courage, Pakistan had dragged themselves back into the race for a place in the last four of this tournament.
They beat South Africa. They beat a previously unbeaten New Zealand.
Then came Afghanistan. Winless Afghanistan. A team that were still years away from even being invented when Pakistan themselves won the World Cup 27 years ago.
Hopeless Afghanistan? Hardly. In scenes that were so typical of both sides, Afghanistan played as though they had not got the memo that said they were going to be easy-beats.
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Pakistan, meanwhile, opted to take the difficult route.
After another inspired display by Shaheen Afridi with the ball, as he became the first teenager to pick up a four-wicket haul in the history of World Cups, Pakistan were tasked with chasing 228 to win.
That was not a gimme, on a Headingley track conducive to spin, and against a side boasting a fine slow-bowling attack.
Mohammed Nabi took 2-23 from 10 overs of off-spin, with Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Rashid Khan taking three between them to stall their illustrious opposition.
When Sarfaraz Ahmed was run out, Pakistan were left with 72 to get from 11 overs with four wickets left, and all of their recognised batsmen gone.
It did not look likely, but Imad Wasim, in partnership first with Shadab Khan, then Wahab Riaz, somehow dragged his side over the line.
He ended unbeaten on 49, having taken an over from Afghanistan’s captain Gulbadin for 18 when all had seemed lost, and crashed the winning runs himself with a glorious cover drive.
“When I went in, Rashid Khan was bowling brilliantly – I couldn’t pick him, to be honest,” Imad said after receiving the player-of-the-match award.
“I just hung in there. We decided to play for the 50 overs and see the result, thinking if we could do that we would be in a good position to win the game.
“Gulbadin was the only bowler we could target, as the wicket was turning square, and they have world-class spinners. If you take a risk against them, they might take your wicket.
“This win gives us a lot of confidence, and now we believe we can win from anywhere. Let’s hope for the best.”
It was Afghanistan’s eighth consecutive defeat in the competition, and Gulbadin acknowledged his side are going through a testing time.
“We fought really well, the boys gave it a 100 per cent, but we missed the opportunity to win the match,” Gulbadin said.
“Playing matches against these types of teams, you can face a lot of difficult situations.”
Sarfaraz praised Imad, who had earlier played a key role with the ball as he took 2-48, for his match-winning display.
“It was not an easy pitch to bat on, but hats off to Imad, credit goes to him,” Sarfaraz said.
“We knew it was not an easy target. The pitch changed its behaviour, and their bowlers used the conditions very well.”
Updated: June 29, 2019 09:42 PM