SHARJAH: Opening batter Rahmanullah Gurbaz’s sensible 44-run knock helped Afghanistan beat Pakistan in the second T20I to win the series with one match remaining.
Afghanistan scored 133/3 with a ball to spare after being set a target of 131.
Earlier, Afghanistan openers Gurbaz and Usman Ghani (seven off nine) set the tone for the run chase, scoring 30 runs in the first four overs before Zaman Khan dismissed the latter.
Following the early setback, Gurbaz formed a game-defining partnership with Ibrahim Zadran, anchoring the run chase.
The pair added 56 runs during their crucial second-wicket stand before Naseem Shah’s direct hit ended Gurbaz’s innings. Gurbaz top-scored for Afghanistan with 44 off 49 deliveries, laced up with two boundaries and a six.
Ibrahim then shared a brief partnership with Najibullah Zadran, taking Afghanistan past the 100-run mark before being dismissed by Ihsanullah. He hit three boundaries and scored a 40-ball 38.
Mohammad Nabi, Afghanistan’s last match hero, then joined Ibrahim in the middle and played another crucial knock for his team in a tense run chase.
Despite failing to take enough wickets, Pakistan bowlers restricted Afghanistan to 109/3 in 18 overs. However, Naseem’s sloppy 19th over gave Afghanistan the upper hand, as the right-arm pacer leaked 17 runs while leaving only five runs behind.
Pakistan captain Shadab Khan then brought in Zaman Khan to defend a mere five runs in the final over, but Ibrahim and Nabi kept their cool to power their team over the line with a ball to spare.
Ibrahim hit two boundaries and a six in his 12-ball 23 not out, while Nabi remained unbeaten with 14 off nine deliveries and a six.
Only Ihsanullah and Zaman took wickets for Pakistan, while the rest were bowled out.
Pakistan, who chose to bat first, got off to a bad start, losing two wickets in the first over as openers Saim Ayub and Abdullah Shafique both got ducks.
After a frustrating first over, Mohammad Haris looked to counter-attack in the second over, taking Azmatullah Omarzai to the cleaners.
Haris appeared to have found his rhythm, but Naveen-ul-Haq caught him behind in the fourth over to give Afghanistan their third victory. He was able to score 15 off nine deliveries, thanks to two boundaries and a six.
With Pakistan trailing by 20 runs in the fourth over, experienced all-rounder Imad joined young Tayyab Tahir in the middle and stitched together a tenacious 40-run partnership.
Imad led the fightback with a fourth-wicket stand with Tahir, who fell to Karim Jannat after a cautious 23-ball 13.
Pakistan was then dealt another blow in the next over when Rashid Khan trapped Azam Khan (1) in his legs, reducing Pakistan to 63/5 in 11 overs.
With his team in trouble, skipper Shadab Khan came out to bat and stitched together a match-saving partnership with Imad.
The pair withstood the pressure applied by Afghanistan bowlers and kept the scoreboard ticking until Shadab died on the final delivery of the innings.
Shadab produced a 25-ball 32 with three boundaries, while Imad top-scored for Pakistan with a tenacious half-century of 64 off 57 deliveries, hitting three boundaries and two sixes.
On 2/19, Fazalhaq Farooqi led Afghanistan’s bowling assault. Rashid, Naveen, and Karim also each claimed a wicket.