Wicketkeeper-batsman Umar Akmal notched up a breezy century under pressure before the bowlers came to the party and guided Pakistan to a bonus-point 72-run victory over Afghanistan in the Asia Cup. Chasing a challenging target of 249, Afghanistan could only manage 176 in 47.2 overs in front of a disciplined Pakistan bowling attack.
Put in to bat, Pakistan rode on Akmal’s scintillating batting effort to post 248 for eight in their quota of 50 overs on a sluggish pitch at the Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium here. The young batsman smashed unbeaten 102 off 89 balls after Pakistan were reduced to 117 for six inside 30 overs. The 23-year-old, who scored 74 off 72 against Sri Lanka in the last match, clobbered three sixes and seven boundaries while helping his team recover from a precarious position.
Afghanistan, in reply, had a poor start as they lost opener Mohammad Shahzad (9) early. His partner, Noor Ali Zadran, played a few attractive shots at the other end. Zadran made 44 off 63 deliveries and hit seven boundaries, before he was trapped in front by off-spinner Saeed Ajmal.
Asghar Stanikzai and Nawroz Mangal started the resurrection job for Afghanistan and tried to build a partnership. Though the duo put on a 74-run for the third wicket, they failed to get the spiralling asking rate down. While Stanikzai consumed 91 deliveries for his 40, Mangal made 35 off 57 balls. Both hit three boundaries each in their 119-ball partnership.
With the required rate steadily going beyond reach, Afghanistan batsman played shots and perished in pursuit of quick runs. Afghanistan lost the wickets of Stanikzai and Mangal in the space of three balls. Skipper Mohammad Nabi (15) and Najibullah Zadran (1) failed to make an impact in the run-chase as Afghanistan fell way short.
The Afghan team faced difficulty in negotiating the Pakistan spin-trio led by Saeed Ajmal, who picked up two wickets while giving away just 25 runs in his nine overs. Shahid Afridi (1/31) and Mohammad Hafeez (3/29), too, kept the opposition batsmen in check, besides chipping in with wickets.
Earlier, things could have been much different had Samiullah Shenwari clung on to a straightforward skier at point when Umar Akmal was on 28. Pakistan, at that stage, were 146 for six.
Akmal went on to make a scintillating ton, which he brought up with a huge six off the penultimate ball of Pakistan’s innings.
Opener Ahmed Shehzad (50) contributed with a half-century and, along with Sharjeel Khan, got Pakistan off to a fine start, compiling 55 runs for the opening wicket before the latter was scalped for 25 off 37 balls. Sharjeel struck two fours and a six.
Next batsman Mohammad Hafeez (10) joined hands with Shehzad, but the continued…