Afghanistan skipper Gulbadin Naib has come out in defence of his move to bowl the 46th over that eventually went for 18 runs and allowed Pakistan to recover from a precarious situation and ramp home towards a three-wicket victory in a thriller in World Cup 2019 this Saturday (June 29) at Headingley.
Defending a modest total of 227/9, Afghan spinners Mohammad Nabi (2-23), Mujeeb Ur Rahman (2-34) and Rashid Khan (1-50) had pushed Pakistan into a corner where it needed 46 runs from 30 balls to win with only four wickets in hand. Pacer Hamid Hassan had picked up a hamstring niggle and couldn't complete his quota but part-time leggie Samiullah Shinwari (0/32) ably filled up for him.
Naib, with purchase available from the deck for tweakers, had the option of continuing with spin. However, he decided to take the responsibility upon himself but ended up conceding 18 runs off his over, effectively changing the momentum and relaxing the task for Pakistan before it kept nerves in control and finally edged past the finish line. All-rounder Imad Wasim remained unbeaten on 49 and earned the "Player-of-the-Match" award.
Naib, whose wicket-less spell of 9.4 overs went for 73 runs, said the injury to Hamid after bowling just two overs was the turning point of the match.
"We had the feeling they weren't targeting every bowler," Naib was quoted as saying after the game. "Every team has their plans and I thought the crucial point is for the 46th over that I bowled and 18 runs, it's not really good."
"If Hamid was there maybe I didn't bowl more than three or four overs because I do not have enough speed for this kind of surface," said Naib and acknowledged Pakistan's more experienced outfit.
"I think the pressure was on the Pakistan side. But credit goes to them, how they played and how they finished the game."
Afghanistan, with eight straight losses in the competition, will now be hoping to finally clinch a win in its last game against West Indies at Headingley on Thursday (July 4).
(Inputs from AFP)