Afghanistan Cricket Captain Gulbadin Baib has tried to do everything in this tournament for them. He has opened the batting, he has opened the bowling, he has tried to anchor the innings, he has tried to be aggressive at the top, he has bowled in the first power play, he has bowled in the last power play, and with one of their most famous wins in sight against Pakistan, he ended up doing too many things when he should have been fielding at deep midwicket against his spinners.
Coming to the match itself, Pakistan’s encounter against Afghanistan was supposed to be a comfortable win for the resurgent Pakistan side. They had beaten South Africa and New Zealand in back to back games, the other results had gone their way to push them towards a Semifinal spot, they were supposed to just turn up against a struggling Afghanistan side and cruise to an easy 2 points. However, it is Pakistan team we are talking about so they played with the emotions of their fans all the way through before finally getting over the line.
When Afghanistan were restricted to 227 in their 50 overs, the game looked to be going as per the script. Then Pakistan suffered a jolt in the very first over of their chase when the excellent Mujeeb trapped Fakhar Zaman plumb in front. That looked like a minor bump on the road as Imam ul Haq and the prolific Babar Azam put on a 72 runs partnership quite comfortably. The veteran Mohammed Nabi then turned things around by dismissing both of them in quick succession dragging back the scoring rate.
Hafeez and Haris Sohail found scoring very difficult against the rampant Afghan spinners before Hafeez gifted his wicket to Mujeeb and Sohail was trapped in front by Rashid. Then came a decisive moment in the game when Rashid trapped Imad in front but the umpire shook his head, Afghanistan were out of reviews and had to pay the price for wasting a review early on. They were still well in the game when Sarfaraz was too slow in between the wickets and was caught short of his ground with the target still 72 runs away. Imad and Shadab Khan nudged the ball around against the relentless spinners to get the equation to 46 off 30 balls.
With 2 overs each remaining from Rashid Khan and Shinwari, and one remaining from Mujeeb, everyone watching the game was expecting the spinners to close things out on a turning track. However, Afghanistan captain Gulbadin Naib has other plans. The captain had conceded nearly 6 RPO till that point, he didn’t need to bring himself on, but the man wanted to lead from the front as his side chased a historic win.
The over went horribly wrong though, a full toss was smashed past square leg for 4, a miscue ended in no man’s land for a couple, another couple to deep midwicket, an edged boundary followed by a smashing shot past point for 4. A wide at this point was inevitable, before Gulbadin finally got a ball in the right place to concede just 1 off the last ball but by then the game was over.
Afghanistan had a glimmer of hope when Shadab was run out thanks to an excellent throw from the captain himself from the deep but the new man, Wahab Riaz, continued his good batting form in this tournament by smashing a couple of boundaries to hasten the end.
The spinners still fought gamely and set up a final over with 6 runs required and 3 wickets in hand. Everyone expected Shinwari to turn up with the ball as a last ditch effort, but it was the redemption chasing Captain Gulbadin Naib, who once again decided to take responsibility. Things only got worse for Naib as he fluffed a gentle throw to miss a chance to run out Imad, and conceded an overthrow in the process as well. Imad celebrated the reprieve by smashing the next ball to the boundary to clinch a remarkable win for his side and keep the spirit of 1992 alive. For Gulbadin, it was a day when he realized that sometimes it is better to take a step back and let others do the job instead of trying to do everything as a Captain.
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