Minnows Afghanistan pulled off a shock upset in the first semi -final of the Asian Games Men's Cricket Tournament, defeating the mighty Pakistanis by 22 runs. The match was played at the Guanggong International Cricket Staidum in Guangzhou, China.
Batting first, the Afghanis got off to a decent start courtesy forceful knocks from Mohammad Shahzad and Karim Sadiq. But the Pakistanis struck back to remove Sadiq with 35 runs on the board. The Afganistan middle-order was then held together by a gritty innings of 35 from Sabir Noori (including 2 fours and 2 sixes), before small contributions from the latter order took Afghanistan to the modest total of 125/8 in their 20 overs. Pakistan inadvertently pitched in with 15 extras, mostly coming off wides and no-balls.
In reply, Pakistan got off to a steady start with decent contributions from its openers, Sharjeel Khan who made 23 and captain Khalid Latif who went for 26. But the middle and latter order crumbled to some fine bowling from Karim Sadiq and Hamid Hassan, who each picked up two wickets. Pakistan latter-order batsman Lal Kumar, tried to fight it out with a valiant, unbeaten 18. But in the end, Pakistan were done for and ended on for 103/7. As a result of this incredible win, Afghanistan advance to the final of the tournament where they will face either Bangladesh or Sri Lanka.
Afghanistan had beaten Hong Kong to reach the semi-finals while Pakistan knocked out China. In the other quarter-finals, Sri Lanka overwhelmed Nepal and Bangladesh beat Malaysia.
In the lead up to the semi-final encounter, coach of the Afghanistani team Rashid Latif has reportedly told his team not to get intimidated or over-awed by the fact that they were playing an ostensibly superior side as Pakistan. In a note to each of the Afghani players, Latif said, "Don't be scared of your rivals in war. Understand that they are also human beings and are scared as well". It certainly looks like that encouraging statement paid off with dividends.