Afghanistan fell to its first loss of the tournament after opening with a win over Scotland, narrowly failing to secure what would have been a memorable victory at a time of uncertainty back home following the Taliban’s takeover of the country in August.
Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi said this week “the only happiness in Afghanistan is cricket.” Star leg-spinner Rashid Khan said his team just wanted to put smiles on the faces of people back home.
They will have done that, even in this agonizing defeat.
“Asif Ali played that 19th over really well,” Nabi said. “There are many positives to take from this. We fought to the end and it’s given me more motivation to win games.”
The match began while swathes of fans outside the stadium were seen running toward the entrances. Those already inside had queued for hours and they generated a stunning atmosphere in a ground awash with color and energy.
Afghanistan recovered from slumping to 39-4 after 5.1 overs to post 147-6, mainly thanks to an unbeaten 71-run partnership — off 48 deliveries — between Nabi and Gulbadin Naib, who both finished on 35.
Shadab Khan and Shah Afridi were the best of the Pakistani bowlers, having figures of 1-22 off their four overs.
Perhaps bettering them were Afghanistan spinners Mujeeb Ur Rahman (1-14) and Rashid Khan, who only came into the attack after 10 overs but had figures of 2-26 and bowled the dangerous Babar off the last ball of his spell to leave Afghanistan in with a chance.
Asif had other ideas.