Ihsanullah continues ascent as he sparkles in Pakistan’s consolation win over Afghanistan

Fearsome display by rookie fast bowler sets platform for 66-run win at Sharjah Cricket Stadium

Pakistan's Ihsanullah celebrates the wicket of Afghanistan's Rahmanullah Gurbaz at Sharjah Cricket Stadium on March 27, 2023. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Ihsanullah ensured Pakistan’s Sharjah experiment was not wasted as he helped them to a consolation win against Afghanistan on Monday.

Pakistan blooded a number of new young prospects in the three-game T20 international series. Their inexperience showed as Afghanistan sealed the series with relative ease, with back-to-back wins in the opening two nights.

Fast bowler Ihsanullah emerged with his reputation enhanced, though. The 20-year-old fast-bowler from the Swat Valley had already announced himself to the wider public with a string of fine displays at the Pakistan Super League.

Having been handed his first cap, he thrived, bowling with the sort of hostility which has historically proved difficult on the low wickets of Sharjah Cricket Stadium.

In the final game of the series, he was fearsome. He bowled Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Afghanistan’s free-scoring opener, before pursuing a short-ball gameplan when he returned later in Pakistan’s defence of 183.

Pakistan beat Afghanistan - in pictures

He forced Najibullah Zadran off the field when he struck him on the chin with a bouncer. With the next delivery, he bounced out Karim Janat.

The majority of runs he did concede came via top edges past the wicketkeeper, as the batters struggled to cope with the trajectory of his bouncers – until Rashid Khan managed to get him over the stand at square leg for a 90 metre six.

Finally, he accounted for Fareed Ahmad, as he finished with figures of three for 29.

His captain, Shadab Khan, was less spectacular to watch, but still led from the front with his leg spin. He took three for 14 from four overs, as Afghanistan managed just 116 before being both out with eight balls left unused.

A series whitewash proved beyond the Afghans, but they had achieved their aim a night earlier when they clinched a first series win against Pakistan in their history.

The success brought with it much praise, including from former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who wrote on social media that he congratulated "his dear compatriots on the victory" which he termed "a significant achievement".

The final say in the series was to Pakistan, though. For the first time in three games, their batters fired as they amassed 182 for seven from their 20 overs. Saim Ayub top scored with 49.

Updated: March 28, 2023, 4:21 AM