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Pakistan were on the ropes but held their nerves to beat Afghanistan by three wickets in the final over of the Asia Cup 2018 match at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Friday.

The Super Four encounter revolved around mammoth partnerships. Afghanistan raised 257 runs thanks to a fourth-wicket 94-run partnership between Hashmatullah Shahidi (97 not out) and Asghar Afghan (67).

Pakistan replied with 154-run second-wicket effort by Imam-ul-Haq (80) and Babar Azam (66). And at the end an experienced Shoaib Malik played a matured match-winning innings of 51 runs.

Pakistan began the day well but lost the plot midway hit by four dropped catches. Debutant pacer Shaheen Afridi didn't enjoy the beginners luck as opener Ihsanullah Janat was dropped twice in an over.

Mohammad Nawaz eventually got Ihsanullah and Mohammad Shahzad. With two quick wickets, Afghanistan had 31 runs from 10 overs. However, Shahidi and Rahmat Shah restricted further damage negating spin-pace attack of Haris Sohail, Shoaib, Hasan Ali and Usman Khan. However, Nawaz foxed Shah to end a 63-run partnership.

But skipper Asghar Afghan, in his fist ball, showed intent by slamming Nawaz for a six. Asghar was dropped on 67 off the bowling of Shaheen. The debutant had a harsh tryst with Pakistan's fielding bloopers.

Shaheen, however, got his maiden wicket by bowling Asghar and later claimed Mohammad Nabi. With Afghanistan at 200 in 44 overs, Shahidi, then at 56, stepped up his game with sensational power hitting. In the last over, Shahidi struck three consecutive boundaries off Usman.

In reply, Pakistan suffered early shock as Mujeeb Ur Rahman trapped Fakhar Zaman in the first over. Fakhar for the second time in this tournament was out without scoring.

Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam, playing watchfully, made 36 runs in 10 overs. Even as the asking rate jumped over six-an-over, the pair rotated the strike and brought up the 100-run partnership from 137 balls.

Picking odd boundaries and sixes, Imam-Babar controlled the pace of the innings and reached the 150-run mark. Just as the game was slipping away from Afghanistan, Imam (80 from 104 balls) was run out and Babar (66 from 94 balls) was stumped by an alert Shahzad off the bowling of Rashid Khan. The required run rate climbed. But experienced Shoaib kept his cool to hunt the target with a 43-ball 51 runs, including a six and four to nail the victory in last over.




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