In the first T20I match between Afghanistan and Pakistan in Sharjah, Afghanistan victory by six wickets with 13 balls remaining. It was an important win for Afghanistan, who have been eager to defeat Pakistan for over a decade. Mohammad Nabi, who made a comeback to the team, was the standout performer of the match, scoring an unbeaten 38 and also taking two wickets.
Pakistan won the toss and chose to bat first, but they struggled to cope with Afghanistan’s disciplined bowling on a challenging pitch. They lost wickets at regular intervals and were unable to build any momentum, ending their innings with just 92 for 9, which is their fifth-lowest T20I total. In response, Afghanistan’s batting also faced difficulties due to the surface, and Pakistan’s pace bowlers initially threatened to run through their lineup. However, Nabi’s experience came in handy as he and Najibullah Zadran put on an assured partnership to guide Afghanistan to victory.
Pakistan’s openers, Saim Ayub and Mohammad Haris, who had performed well in the recent PSL, struggled against Afghanistan’s bowlers. Haris was caught by Azmatullah Omarzai while attempting a hoick, while Abdullah Shafique was trapped lbw by Omarzai in the next over. Ayub fell soon after, trying to play a fancy shot that worked well for him in the PSL but not on this pitch. Fazalhaq Farooqi’s early swing set the tone for Afghanistan, and they never let Pakistan’s batsmen settle in.
Pakistan’s batters had a rough time as they were reduced to 39 for 3, with Rashid Khan taking over the bowling crease as soon as the powerplay ended. He deceived Tayyab Tahir with his flight, taking out the only competent Pakistan batter and ending his 16-run stint in just one ball. Azam Khan was similarly clueless, being dismissed for a two-ball duck by Mujeeb Ur Rahman. In the following 11 overs, Pakistan went from shaky to shell-shocked, with only six balls of pace being bowled. By the 17th over, they were at 80 for 8, making it impossible to make a comeback.
Ihsanullah had a good start in his first international game, despite the pressure of defending a low total. He got rid of two batters in quick succession, making Pakistan smell blood. Naseem Shah struck next to get rid of the biggest dangerman, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, thanks to a sensational grab at short midwicket from Shafique. When Imad Wasim cleaned up Karim Jannat with a dart into middle stump, it seemed Pakistan would subject Afghanistan to yet another heartache.
However, Nabi’s recall to the side proved to be a game-changer for Afghanistan. His grey experience and calmness were just what his side needed to counter the nerves and paranoia that surrounded them. He took the emotions out of the contest and whittled the target down with Najibullah, aware that the required rate was never going to be a problem. The dot balls didn’t pile on the pressure, and the occasional boundary only increased Pakistan’s desperation.
As Shadab searched for wickets, he had to turn to Ihsanullah and Naseem a couple of overs early, and Nabi sensed his opportunity. He smacked Naseem for a pair of fours at the end of the 17th over to bring the target down into single figures. A majestic six over mid-off made the win official, a princely shot from a man feted as Afghan cricketing royalty.