Afghanistan completed another stunning victory in the 2023 World Cup, overwhelming Pakistan by eight wickets in Chennai on Monday.
If their victory over England in Delhi was impressive, the triumph over arch-rivals Pakistan was clinical as they chased down 283 with eight wickets in hand and an over to spare.
Openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran hit fifties, putting together 130 for the first wicket. Thereafter, Rahmat Shah and captain Hashmatullah Shahidi controlled the chase expertly, hardly putting a foot wrong to emerge as deserving winners.
Pakistan needed a strong start to make up for the dew that was expected to fall later in the evening. But it was Afghanistan’s openers that landed the first blow, and then kept on punching.
Gurbaz (65) broke free in the eighth over, taking on Haris Rauf who was bowling his first. He drove the quick for three crisp boundaries through the off side before an inside edge past the keeper handed him the fourth for the over. Afghanistan were up and away.
Pakistan had two leg-spinners in the side – Shadab Khan and Usama Mir – but they did not get the same consistent purchase off the pitch as their Afghan counterparts.
However, the reintroduction of pace saw Pakistan come back into the contest. Shaheen Afridi broke the opening stand as he got Gurbaz caught off a top edge at third man. The opener departed after a 53-ball knock that included nine fours and a six.
Zadran was approaching his century when the ball began to stop on the surface and also reverse, with Hassan Ali applying the brakes. The veteran seamer got Zadran (87) caught behind after his scoring came to a halt, re-energising the Pakistan camp.
But Afghanistan regrouped. Shah (77 not out) and captain Shahidi (48 not out) kept scoring at run a ball to take the team near the finish line. Victory was achieved in the penultimate over as Shahidi swung Afridi to the leg side boundary to spark wild celebrations among the sizeable Afghan crowd. It was Afghanistan's first win over Pakistan in an ODI.
Earlier, Pakistan captain Babar Azam led the way with the bat as his half-century laid the foundation for a challenging score of 282-7 at the MA Chidambaram Stadium.
Azam's 92-ball 74 kept Afghanistan’s spinners at bay until the death overs, where Shadab and Iftikhar Ahmed hit quickfire 40s each to propel the score.
On a spin-friendly pitch, Afghanistan fielded four slow bowlers with 18-year-old left-armer Noor Ahmad grabbing a career best 3-49 on World Cup debut.
Shadab added 73 runs with Iftikhar for the sixth wicket as Pakistan scored 61 in the last five overs.
Iftikhar in particular was in devastating mood, hitting four sixes and two boundaries while Shadab's innings featured a six and a four.
Pakistan finished on a high after enjoying a strong start with a 56-run stand before Azmatullah Omarzai dismissed Imam-ul-Haq for 17 in the 11th over.
Noor then trapped opener Abdullah Shafique for 58 in the 23rd over. Noor also dismissed Pakistan's star batsman Mohammad Rizwan, caught sweeping in his next over to leave them struggling at 120-3 before captain Azam got them back on track.