SHARJAH: Pakistan pacer Naseem Shah held his nerves calm in a tense run chase and smashed consecutive sixes to power his side over the line and into the final of the Asia Cup 2022.
Set to chase 130, Afghanistan bowlers made it hard for Pakistan but Naseem smashed two sixes on the first two deliveries of the final over to power the Green Shirts into the final of the continental event.
The men in green were off to a dismal start to their run chase as their captain Babar Azam perished for a golden duck in the first over, while top-order batter Fakhar Zaman also made his way back to the pavilion in the fifth over for a mere five.
World No.1 batter Mohammad Rizwan and all-rounder Iftikhar Ahmed then attempted to script recovery for Pakistan as the duo added a crucial 27 runs for the third wicket before Rashid Khan trapped the top batter for 20 and Pakistan, as a result, slipped to 45/3 in the ninth over.
Following his departure, Iftikhar then joined hands with vice-captain Shadab Khan and added the highest partnership of 42 runs in the run chase before the former fell while attempting to shift the momentum. He scored 30 off 33 deliveries.
Shadab, however, who was scoring at a rapid pace fell in the next over after top-scoring for Pakistan with 36 in the next over. He faced 26 deliveries and smashed four boundaries including three sixes.
The side then ran into a frustrating collapse and soon slipped to 119/9 in 19 overs as Asif Ali also perished after hitting a six off Fareed Ahmad and scored an important 16 in a tense chase.
Naseem then stole the show with two blistering hits on the first two delivery of the final over and guided Pakistan to an astonishing victory.
Following the victory, both Pakistan and Sri Lanka qualified for the final while India and Afghanistan crashed out of the tournament.
Fazalhaq Farooqi and Fareed were the picks of the bowlers for Afghanistan as they bagged three each, while Rashid made two scalps.
Afghanistan, after being put into bat first by Pakistan captain Babar Azam, had a flying start to their inning as openers Hazratullah Zazai and Rahmanullah Guzrbaz attacked Pakistan bowlers with blistering hitting.
The appeared solid appeared and was dealing in boundaries till the fourth over before Pakistan speedster Haris Rauf castled Gurbaz for 17.
Following Gurbaz’s departure, his partner Zazai also fell soon after in the next over as Mohammad Hasnain outdid him with a slower delivery. The left-handed batter scored 21 off 17 deliveries.
Karim Janat and Ibrahim Zadran then anchored the inning briefly with their 35-run partnership for the third wicket.
Ibrahim was looking impressive amid the stand and was scoring more efficiently, while Janat, who was struggling to get going, perished in the 12th over after scoring a snail-paced 15.
Following his dismissal, Afghanistan began to lose wickets at an alarming rate and soon slipped to 91/5 in the 15th over with their captain Mohammad Nabi being the latest casualty after bagging a golden duck off Naseem Shah.
Afghanistan top-scorer Ibrahim also fell victim to the strong Pakistan bowling attack in the 17th over as the extra bounce and pace stunned the right-handed batter. He scored 35 off 37 deliveries, laced with two boundaries and a six.
Following the slump, all-rounder Rashid Khan stood up for his team and scored an important 18 off just 10 deliveries and bolstered his side to finish at 129/6 in the allotted 20 overs.
Haris led the bowling attack for Pakistan with two wickets, while Naseem, Mohammad Nawaz, Shadab Khan, and Mohammad Hasnain struck out a batter each