Amid unbearable tension and a cacophony of noise, Afghanistan’s players were in sight of the biggest win in their country’s cricketing history.
With four aggressive strikes, Asif Ali took it away from them.
Pakistan’s power hitter smashed four sixes in the next-to-last over of a thrilling match at Dubai International Stadium to seal a five-wicket win over its plucky neighbour on Friday.
“The boundary was small from this end so I told my partner I’d go for it,” Asif said. “Thank God we pulled it off.”
Set 148 to win, Pakistan appeared to be timing its chase to perfection, only to lose key batters Babar Azam (51) and Shoaib Malik (19) in the space of six balls and find itself needing 24 runs with two overs remaining.
They all came in one blazing six-ball spell that evoked memories of Carlos Braithwaite’s four straight sixes to seal the West Indies’ win over England in 2016 final.
Taking on the medium pace of Karim Janat, Asif cleared the long-off boundary off the first ball, the midwicket boundary off the third ball and powered another six down the ground off the fifth ball.
With the six runs still needed to win, Asif gave himself room and crunched Janat’s sixth ball for six over extra cover to clinch a third straight win in the Super 12s for Pakistan, which had already dispatched India and New Zealand.
Asif finished on 25 not out off just seven balls and his team is now a big favourite to be one of the two semifinalists to come from Group 2, with Pakistan’s remaining games against qualifiers Namibia and Scotland.