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Recent Match Report – Afghanistan vs Pakistan 24th Match, Group 2 2021/22

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With 24 needed from 12 balls, Asif hit four sixes off Janat in the 19th over to win it

Pakistan 148 for 5 (Babar 51, Asif 25*, Rashid 2-26) beat Afghanistan 147 for 6 (Naib 35*, Imad 2-25) by five wickets

The modern rivalry between Pakistan and Afghanistan produced yet another instant classic, but in the end Afghanistan ran out of bowling depth to lose with one over to go. Pakistan, who will know they manufactured a crisis especially with captain Babar Azam losing his wits around Rashid Khan, are now practically in the semi-final with Asif Ali bailing them out with four sixes in the 19th over.

It was as loud as it was tense off the field with scenes of stampede outside the stadium when trying to keep out ticketless fans reminiscent of the rioting during the 2019 World Cup match at Headingley between these two sides. On the field, Afghanistan made all the running, be it a frenetic start, the slowdown to avoid getting bowled out, the finishing quick, the Mujeeb Ur Rahman attack first up, the holding back of Rashid, the Naveen-ul-Haq 18th over to create pressure.

Pakistan kept absorbing the blows before Asif struck the deciding ones in the 19th over. With one whole bowler’s quote to be made up of Karim Janat and Gulbadin Naib, who didn’t bowl on the night, Afghanistan just had too few to defend in 147.

Helter skelter

The start was pure no-holds-barred manic Twenty20 energy. Three batters’ first scoring shots in the powerplay were sixes. Haris Rauf bowled the joint-fastest ball of the Super 12s stage. Shaheen Afridi didn’t get a wicket in the first over, but got one in his second. Imad Wasim took out a left-hand batter in his first and got carted two right-hand batters in his second. All told Afghanistan were 49 for 4 after the powerplay.

It didn’t stop there. After a couple of overs’ lull, Najibullah Zadran reverse-swept Shadab Khan for four followed by a four and six off him in his coming overs. In between Imad got Janat. Shadab’s response to the six was the perfect wrong’un to take Najib’s edge and make it 70 for 6 in the 13th over.

The Nabi-Naib show

By the time Najibullah got out, Mohammad Nabi scored just five off 12. He would continue going slow to 20 off 23 at the start of the death overs. They knew they had lost too many wickets up front, and now needed wickets in hand if they were going to get big runs in the back four. Rauf conceded just three in the 17th. In the 18th, though, Nabi exploited the short leg-side boundary to take down Hasan Ali and then capitalised on a couple of errors from Rauf. Forty-six off the last four gave Afghanistan something to work with.

Mujeeb ties Pakistan down

That something became more substantial as Mujeeb started off superbly with his variations and accuracy, bowling four overs on the trot for 14 runs and the wicket of Mohammad Rizwan. By the time Mujeeb was done, Pakistan were just 44 for 1 in seven overs.

Holding Rashid back

Afghanistan could have bowled an over of Rashid here looking for a wicket but they put all eggs in his basket by trying to bowl medium pace in the next three overs. This is when Babar, stuck on 11 off 17, found some momentum and got to a run a ball. When Rashid was finally brought on, Pakistan needed 76 off 10 overs with nine wickets in hand.

Rashid turns it around

It is a matter of magic that with such an easy equation, with dew expected, with a few indifferent overs in the bag to capitalise on, Rashid still managed to create panic. In his first two overs, he drew nine false responses. At the other end, Fakhar Zaman got out looking to make up for the quiet at Rashid’s end. Babar failed to pick which way Rashid was turning it. He barely survived the wrong’uns and the edge off the legbreak went wide of slip. Mohammad Hafeez was not so lucky, holing out to long-on. Thirty-eight required off last four.

0:39

WATCH - Asif Ali finishes off the chase with his fourth six in the 19th over

WATCH – Asif Ali finishes off the chase with his fourth six in the 19th over

The end game

Afghanistan now had a choice to bowl Naveen in the 17th and 19th overs so that their weakest bowler, Janat, is used only in the 20th, but they went ahead with Rashid in the 17th. Shoaib Malik eased all the pressure with a six second ball, but Babar still played panic-stricken shots without knowing which way the ball was turning. He was dropped first ball, but was out bowled last ball of the over.

Naveen backed it up with a composed over in which a slower ball bamboozled Malik and the quicker one got him out. Shadab wanted to steal a single last ball of the over, but Asif wasn’t even looking at him. Time for dealing in quick singles was over.

It was now time to exploit Afghanistan’s weakest bowler and the short leg-side boundary. First ball he went deep into the crease to convert the yorker into a half-volley and go miles over long-off. Next one was a perfect yorker. The third one was short, and he pulled it for a flat small six. Next one again a perfect yorker. The last two, though, missed the length and Asif ended the game.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo



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BAN vs PAK 2021 – Russell Domingo: ‘It’s frustrating that silly mistakes’ cost Bangladesh ‘great position’

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Head coach bemoans ‘silly mistakes at crucial stages’ that, he says, cost them positions of dominance against Pakistan in the Chattogram Test

Bangladesh coach Russell Domingo was left frustrated by his players giving away strong positions in the Chattogram Test. Twice in the match the home side bounced back from difficult positions but just as they approached a stage of dominance, they let the game slip out of their hands.
Heading into the final day, Pakistan are 93 runs away from a win, after their openers Abid Ali and Abdullah Shafique added 109 runs for the unbroken opening stand. They put on 146 in the first innings but Bangladesh bowled them out for 286. The hosts had also recovered from 49 for 4 to put up a total of 330 thanks to Mushfiqur Rahim and Liton Das. But it seems all those fightbacks might be for nothing.

Domingo put Bangladesh’s inability to hold on to positions of dominance down to a lack of the killer instinct.

“We got ourselves in great position but we were just not able to seal the deal,” he said after the fourth day’s play. “I am sure the players are also very frustrated. We seem to be making improvement in the format but they have been just making silly mistakes at crucial stages. A catch going down, or playing a loose shot or bowling a bad spell. We just can’t seem to sustain for a longer period of time. It is very frustrating.

“I think we probably need to understand what to do when the moment is there. Somebody has to take that step in a high-pressure environment. We cannot wait for someone else to do it. Because we have lost so many Tests in Bangladesh’s history, the belief and the confidence to actually grab the game by the scruff of the neck isn’t quite there.”

Nurul Hasan, who came on as a concussion substitute for Yasir Ali, threw away the last good position Bangladesh held in this game. After a bright start to the post-lunch session, Nurul holed out at long-on with his side leading by 196 runs. Bangladesh lost their last four wickets for just five runs, leaving Pakistan with only 202 to chase.

“I am not going to criticise players in the media, but I thought we were getting some momentum [before Nurul got out]. I thought we were ahead of the game. We were 196 ahead with four wickets in hand.

“Two batters were getting into a good position. We thought that if that partnership was to go for another 40-50 runs, we would have Pakistan under pressure. Then they would have had to bat for an hour before close of play. If you ask Sohan (Nurul) what he’d would do with that ball, he’d not play the same shot. He let himself and the team down with that shot,” said Domingo.

Domingo’s other worry is Bangladesh’s top three. Shadman Islam, Najmul Hossain Shanto and Saif Hassan caved in quickly in both innings. Shadman was lbw in both innings, Shanto was iffy outside the offstump, and Saif got into bad positions against the short ball.

“It has been disappointing. I wasn’t happy at the way they got out, considering the nature of the wicket. Shadman has come off a hundred in his last Test, be it five or six months ago. We are finding ourselves under pressure against the new ball.

“We are playing against a quality bowling attack. Saif is still playing his fifth or sixth Test. He is very inexperienced. Shadman has played maybe 10. It has been tough for them against high-quality bowlers, so there’s a lot of work for them to do in Tests,” he said.

Doming said that the Pakistan attack was successful in exposing the inexperience of the majority of the new players but, among them, Saif oozed promise.

“Saif has shown glimpses of his capability. Even in the second innings, he was starting to find a bit of confidence and form. I don’t know if Saif has played this sort of intensity and pressure before.

“Yasir came to me after the day’s play yesterday and said that he has never been involved in this intense a battle before in a cricket field.

“It is a new experience for a lot of these young players. They are playing against a quality side. The expectations are high. Some of the shortcomings are definitely being exposed at the moment,” he said.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84



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The Ashes 2021-22 – Australia vs England

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England’s Ashes campaign officially gets underway on Tuesday, according to Joe Root, the Test captain, with the emergence from quarantine of the multi-format players who featured in the recent T20 World Cup in the UAE, and the scheduled start of an intra-squad four-day match in Brisbane.

Jos Buttler, Mark Wood, Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan and Chris Woakes, all of whom featured in England’s run to the semi-finals, will be available for selection in the fixture against England Lions at the Ian Healy Oval, after completing their 14 days of quarantine, with the tour’s coaching contingent of Chris Silverwood, Paul Collingwood, Jeetan Patel and James Foster also now able to link up with the rest of the squad.

But to judge by the weather that the main Ashes party has been encountering on the Gold Coast since their own arrival at the start of the month, it promises to be a soggy reunion, with Root admitting that the players may need to focus on their mental preparation to compensate for their limited time in the middle.

Only 29 overs were possible on the opening day of the initial three-day warm-up against the England Lions last week, meaning that the openers Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed, and the spinner Dom Bess – leant out to the Lions attack – are the only three members of the Ashes party to have had any match practice since the start of the tour.

And for that reason, Root said the proposed first-class status of the squad match had been downgraded, to allow enough flexibility to give the team’s key players sufficient time in the middle – among them Ben Stokes, who has not batted in a red-ball match since the tour of India in February.

“It’s been unusual,” Root admitted, “Having spent a period of time in quarantine and training within that quarantine phase, and then coming to Brisbane. We haven’t had that three-day game, as we would have liked, but it was always going to be the case that tomorrow was really the first day as a squad that we would get together, with those World Cup guys joining us.

“So we always knew that this next phase was going to be the most crucial part, in terms of getting tight, getting clear and readying ourselves, and that’s going to be the real test for us.

“We want that intensity to be as high as we can, as close to the Test matches as we can, and I expect it to be very competitive,” Root said of the four-day fixture. “The quality of the players will be there from both teams and, because of the lack of preparation that we’ve had in that previous three-day game, having that extra bit of flexibility to make sure we can get as many guys what they need throughout these four days is going to be crucial.

“But it might be that, in the next couple of days, we get some similar weather and we don’t get the time out there in the middle. But whether you play those games in your mind a little bit more, visualise a little bit more, it’s really important you find different ways of making sure that, when that first ball comes down at the Gabba, we’re in the best place possible.”

Stokes endured a dramatic 24 hours over the weekend, after briefly choking on a tablet that got lodged in his windpipe in his hotel-room, and then being struck on the forearm while facing throw-downs in the nets from the batting consultant, Jonathan Trott. And while Root was eager to downplay the latter incident, he acknowledged the blow would need to be monitored as he continues his return to action.

“It was a bit of a concern,” Root said. “The wickets, because of the weather, have been slightly spicy and guys have really had to get stuck in. There have been a few little knocks here and there. To see Ben get hit like that was obviously a scary moment. We all know how crucial he is within our squad but he seems to have come through it pretty well.

“He practised again today and again we’ll keep assessing, making sure it doesn’t have a prolonged effect on him. It’s going to be really important that he gets himself ready both physically and mentally for this series and to play a big part in it.”

Either way, England could still find themselves with more match readiness going into that first Test on December 8 than Australia, whose own lack of red-ball game-time has been compounded by internal upheaval, following the resignation of Tim Paine as captain, and the appointment of Pat Cummins in his place.

“It’s not really for us to worry about,” Root said. “For us, it is about readying ourselves as best we can. Playing against Pat, I know what a competitor he is and what he brings to their team. I expect him to do just that as a captain as well. But it is really important we focus on ourselves, get the most out of this lead-in and don’t get distracted by anything that Australia are doing.

“There’s a lot of people that will want to prove things, and will want to show that they deserve an opportunity for that first Test match,” Root added. “This is a really good chance for us to get ahead of things, maybe get ahead of Australia in terms of preparation and game-time ahead of the series, and it would be silly for us to just cosy our way through the four days. It has to be good hard proper cricket that we’ll benefit from, going into the first Test.”

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket



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‘Cricket has a huge amount of learning to do’

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England captain reiterates claim that he did not witness any instances of racism in the Yorkshire dressing-room

Root’s initial statement on the subject earlier this month led Rafiq to claim he was “incredibly hurt” by his former team-mate’s failure to back up his claims of discrimination during their shared time at Yorkshire. And though Root added that the pair had exchanged a “couple of messages” since, he doubled down on his position while speaking ahead of England’s four-day Ashes warm-up in Brisbane.

“I stand by what I said. I don’t recall those incidents,” Root said. “If they are an oversight on my part then that’s an area that we all have to learn from, and I have to learn from.

“Hopefully when we finish this tour, we will get the opportunity to sit down and talk about this whole situation,” Root said of his relationship with Rafiq. “Along with talking to Azeem, I mentioned in my statement that I want to talk to Lord Patel [the chairman] at the club – those dialogues have started. I think it’s important we keep finding ways of bettering the sport, finding ways how we can individually affect things for the better and make a real change in it.

“There is still education that I need to undergo to develop myself further, and I think everyone does,” he added. “There’s so much work that has to be done, so much energy that has to be thrown into this and there has to be a real drive to make a real difference.”

1:42

ICC chairman: 'Discrimination has no place in sport'

ICC chairman: ‘Discrimination has no place in sport’

Root said he was unable to comment, however, on Rafiq’s separate allegation that the nickname “Kevin” – a term he said had been coined by his former team-mate Gary Ballance to describe people of colour – had been an open secret within the England dressing-room. Rafiq’s testimony before Parliament also included the claim that Alex Hales had even named his dog “Kevin” as an in-joke, and the ECB has since opened an inquiry into the issue.

“That’s part of a live investigation and I’m currently not able to discuss matters on that because of that investigation,” Root said. “But clearly that is a phrase that should never be used whether in the dressing room or any part of society. I don’t think I’m in a position to comment more about that.”

Root did, however, insist that there had since been moments when “I feel like I have stepped in and called things out” – namely his on-field criticism of the West Indies fast bowler Shannon Gabriel, for making homophobic comments during a Test match in St Lucia in 2019.

“That comes from growth and learning and understanding and education,” he added. “Discrimination in general is something we have to look to stamp out as much as we can. If there are mistakes, maybe we call them out straight away, and we find a way to keep improving the environments we are playing and working in.

“I’m not saying we’ve always got things completely right, we haven’t, but we clearly have to look to keep getting better and better the sport as much as we can and have those difficult, uncomfortable conversations sometimes. Hopefully that makes a game better for everyone.

“I look at the group of players that are around this team right now and the other two England men’s teams,” Root added. “We have spent a lot of time talking about these topics and what’s happened, and how we can make a real difference.

“I certainly feel like there are a lot of good conversations happening which hopefully can follow into action and we can start to drive the game from our position at the spear point of the sport. That will only come in time from proving it and actually delivering on some of the things that we’ve discussed as a group.”

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket



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