Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Akmal rescued Pakistan with a spectacular century
Pakistan wicketkeeper-batsman Umar Akmal smashed a breathtaking century to help his side start their Asia Cup campaign on a high note as they crushed Afghanistan by 72 runs in Fatullah.
Akmal was well supported by opening batsman Ahmed Shehzad, who scored a fantastic half-century.
Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi would have been regretting his decision to bowl first early on as Pakistan’s opening pair of Sharjeel Khan and Shehzad put together a 55-run partnership before Khan was caught by Noor Ali Zadran at deep midwicket off the bowling of Hamza Hotak for 25.
All-rounder Mohammad Hafeez only made 10 runs before he was caught by Nabi at mid-off off the bowling of Mirwais Ashraf.
Shehzad went on to score a half-century, but failed to add another run after as he was clean bowled by Samiullah Shenwari for 50 off 74 balls, which included seven boundaries.
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq did not trouble the scorers and nor did he face a single ball since he was run out by Najibullah Zadran.
Shoaib Maqsood made 13 runs before he was caught by Asghar Stanikzai at mid-on off the bowling of Shenwari.
Shahid Afridi failed to have an impact with the bat as he was cleaned up by Dawlat Zadran for six runs.
Akmal and Anwar Ali stabilised the innings with a 60-run partnership before Ali was brilliantly caught by Nawroz Mangal at extra cover off the bowling of Ashraf.
Akmal ended up registering his third ODI century as Pakistan went on to score 248 off their 50 overs.
Akmal remained unbeaten on 102 off 89 balls, which included seven boundaries and three sixes.
Zadran, Ashraf and Shenwari picked up two wickets apiece, while Hotak chipped in with one.
Chasing 249 to win, Afghanistan got off to a poor start as opening batsman Mohammad Shahzad was caught behind off the bowling of Umar Gul for nine runs.
Shahzad’s wicket raised an eyebrow or two as there seemed to be some evidence to show that the ball hadn’t hit his bat.
Noor Ali Zadran managed to make 44 runs before he was given out lbw off the bowling of Saeed Ajmal.
Stanikzai and Mangal got Afghanistan’s chase back on track with a 74-run partnership before Stanikzai was caught by Hafeez at point off the bowling of Afridi for 40.
Mangal went on to score 35 runs before he was run out by Ali.
Najibullah Zadran only scored one run before he was clean bowled by Hafeez.
Nabi amassed 15 runs before he was given out lbw off the bowling of Gul.
Ashraf made four runs before he was run out by Junaid Khan.
Dawlat Zadran, Shapoor Zadran and Shenwari were all dismissed in quick succession as Afghanistan were bowled out for 176.
Hafeez was the pick of the Pakistan bowlers with three wickets, while Gul and Ajmal snapped up two wickets each and Afridi chipped in with one wicket as well.
Akmal was named Man of the Match, and said: “It was a team effort. When the ball was going in the air I was hoping it would get dropped and I would continue my innings. I only wanted to play till the end and that’s what happened.
“I have learnt a lot and when I was batting the messages I was getting from the dressing room was to stay till the end. It’s one of my best innings. Hopefully, I will get more opportunities like this and I want to thank my seniors for their support.”