Ali’s big sixes blast Pakistan to victory, and closer to a semi-final berth

Dubai: Pakistan put one foot in the semi-finals of the Twenty20 World Cup after Asif Ali’s scintillating power-hitting secured their nervy five-wicket victory against Afghanistan in the Super 12 stage of the tournament on Friday.

The 2009 champions restricted neighbours Afghanistan to a modest 6-147 in a match between the top two teams in group two at Dubai International Stadium.

Skipper Babar Azam anchored Pakistan’s chase with a fluent 51 but it was Asif who smashed four sixes in the penultimate over from Karim Janat to clinch the see-saw contest with six balls to spare.

Pakistan needed 24 runs off the last two overs and Asif sealed the victory with an incendiary 25 not out off just seven balls, which also earned him the man-of-the-match award.

Having beaten India and New Zealand in their first two matches, Pakistan are effectively in the last four with clashes against minnows Namibia and Scotland remaining.

“Afghanistan have some of the best spinners, they were getting a lot of help and bowling really well,” Babar said.

Pakistan’s Asif Ali blasts a six on the way to victory over Afghanistan.Credit:AP

“I wanted to stay till the end but got out unfortunately. So credit to Asif Ali.

“Asif has played many such innings at the Pakistan Super League. I was very confident he’d get us out of any trouble,” Babar added.

Earlier, Pakistan pacer Shaheen Afridi repeatedly hit Hazratullah Zazai’s pad after Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi elected to bat.

Pakistan blew a review trying to get Zazai lbw but went on to wreck Afghanistan’s top order to reduce them to 4-39 in the sixth over.

“There are many positives to take from this match. We fought to the end and it’s given us more motivation to win games.”

More than 1000 ticketless Afghan fans tried to forcibly enter the stadium for the match and were thwarted by the local police.

In the other match, Andre Russell bowled an immaculate final over to help West Indies pip Bangladesh in a low-scoring thriller by three runs for their first Super 12 win that kept their title defence alive.

Both sides came into the contest with two defeats from as many matches and Bangladesh needed 13 in Russell’s final over to chase down West Indies’ 7-142 – built on Nicholas Pooran’s 40 off 22 balls – on a low and slow wicket at Sharjah.

Russell did not find much support from his fielders, who were guilty of dropped catches and poor ground fielding even in the last over, but still gave away only nine runs and restricted Bangladesh to 139-5.

With Bangladesh needing four off the final delivery, Russell showed nerves of steel to find the perfect yorker and seal the fate of the contest.

The defeat all but ended the South Asian side’s hopes of advancing to the semi-finals.

“This win means a lot to the team,” Holder told reporters. “We’re obviously in a do-or-die situation, having to win the last remaining games. So it’s good to start this one off. It was a close encounter. Nevertheless, we got over the line.”

Reuters

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