Azam leads Pakistan to 282-7 as Afghanistan’s teenage leg-spinner shines
CHENNAI, India (AFP)— Pakistan skipper Babar Azam hit a stylish half century to guide his team to a fighting 282-7 in their World Cup match against Afghanistan in Chennai on Monday.
Azam’s 92-ball 74 was ably supported by opener Abdullah Shafique’s 75-ball 58 while Shadab Khan and Iftikhar Ahmed then scored a valuable 40 runs apiece.
On a spin-friendly Chidambaram Stadium pitch, Afghanistan fielded four slow bowlers with 18-year-old left-armer Noor Ahmad grabbing a career best 3-49 on his World Cup debut.
Shadab added a rapid 73 runs with Iftikhar for the sixth wicket as Pakistan added 61 in the last five overs, with Shadab falling off the last delivery.
Iftikhar cracked four sixes and two boundaries while Shadab’s innings featured a six and a four.
Pakistan enjoyed a strong start with a 56-run stand before Azmatullah Omarzai dismissed Imam-ul-Haq for 17 in the 11th over.
Ahmad struck his first blow when he trapped opener Abdullah Shafique for 58 in the 23rd over.
Shafique hit two sixes and five boundaries in his third half century of the World Cup.
Ahmad then dismissed Pakistan’s top scorer in the World Cup Mohammad Rizwan, caught sweeping in his next over to leave Pakistan on 120-3.
Azam also fell to Ahmad when the Pakistan skipper played a tennis-like shot to a delivery that was seemingly out of his reach, ending up straight into the hands of Mohammad Nabi at extra cover.
Azam hit four boundaries and a six and added 43 with Saud Shakeel who made 25.
Afghan spinner Rashid Khan went wicket-less in his ten overs, conceding 41 runs while pacer Naveen-ul-Haq took 2-52.
Afghanistan’s highest successful ODI chase is the 274 they achieved against the United Arab Emirates in Dubai nine years ago.
Pakistan brought in Shadab in place of Mohammad Nawaz who went down with a fever on the morning of the game while Ahmad came for Afghanistan in place of fast bowler Fazalhaq Farooqi.
Pakistan went into the game with two wins and two defeats from four matches while Afghanistan had win against three losses.
Brief scores: Pakistan 282-7 in 50 overs (Babar Azam 74, Abdullah Shafique 58, Shadab Khan 40, Iftikhar Ahmed 40; Noor Ahmad 3-49)