Relieved Sarfraz hails great win in nervy finish
LEEDS: Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed hailed his side’s three-wicket victory over Afghanistan at the Cricket World Cup as ‘a great win’ despite a nervy finish on a dramatic day at Headingley.
Imad Wasim’s unbeaten 49 made sure Pakistan moved into the top four of the table after falling to 156-6 when chasing a modest total of 228.
Fans then spilled onto the pitch in chaotic scenes after the winning runs were struck.
There were also ugly scenes before the match on Saturday when police had to intervene after violent clashes between rival supporters outside the ground.
“It is a great win for us on not an easy pitch,” said Sarfraz. “We know it was not an easy target. Their bowlers used the conditions very well. Everyone chipped in, it was good team work.”
After a terrible start with just one win from their opening five matches, Pakistan have now won three in matches in succession to leapfrog hosts England into fourth place.
A semi-final place is still in England’s hands, but they face the daunting task of having to beat at least one and most likely both of India and New Zealand in their final two fixtures.
“We all know that it is not easy to win our last four games, we go match by match,” added Sarfraz, whose side face Bangladesh in their final group game. “We will all be watching India v England tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, Afghanistan skipper Gulbadin Naib defended his disastrous decision to bring himself on to bowl towards the end, a move that cost 18 runs in a single over.
Spinners Mohammad Nabi (2-23), Mujeeb Ur Rahman (2-34) and Rashid Khan (1-50) had restricted Pakistan.
Pakistan, with four wickets in hand, needed 46 runs from 30 balls to win the match at the end of the 45th over but the complexion of the game was completely changed after man-of-the-match Imad smashed three fours and scrambled some more runs. Naib also bowled a wide.
Suddenly Pakistan needed just 28 runs from 24 balls and held their nerve to edge home.
Seamer Naib, who conceded 73 runs in 9.4 wicketless overs, said a hamstring injury to paceman Hamid Hassan after he had bowled just two overs was the turning point in the match.
“We had the feeling they weren’t targeting every bowler,” said Naib, who was controversially appointed captain in place of the successful Asghar Afghan two months before the World Cup.
“Every team has their plans and I thought the crucial point is for the 46th over that I bowled and 18 runs, it’s not really good.”
“If Hamid was there maybe I didn’t bowl more than three or four overs because I do not have enough speed for this kind of surface,” he added.
But Naib gave credit to Pakistan.
“I think the pressure was on the Pakistan side. But credit goes to them, how they played and how they finished the game,” he said.
Afghanistan, who have lost all eight of their World Cup matches, play West Indies in their final match at Headingley on Thursday.