Pakistan skipper Babar Azam had no doubt that Asif Ali will deliver when required as the dashing batter went on a six-hitting spree to seal a five-wicket win against Afghanistan in T20 World Cup 2021 in Dubai on Friday.
Chasing 148, Azam scored a composed 51 but he was out in the 17th over. With 24 required off last 12 balls, Asif Ali slammed four sixes in the penultimate over to take Pakistan home -- something which West Indies' Carlos Brathwaite did in the 2016 edition final against England in Kolkata.
“He (Asif Ali) is known for this. He has played many innings at the PSL (Pakistan Super League). So I was very confident he’d get us out of any trouble we find ourselves in,” Azam said after his team scored a hat-trick of wins to stay on top in the Group 2 points table.
“I was confident pre-tournament itself that he would deliver when needed.” Asked to bowl first, Pakistan reduced Afghanistan to 64/5 in 9.1 overs but Gulbadin Naib (35 not out) and skipper Mohammad Nabi (35 not out) shared 71 runs to take Afghanistan to a competitive 147/6.
“We started well with the bowl, got a lot of wickets like we planned. Maybe gave away 10-15 runs too many at the end,” Azam said. Chasing the total, Pakistan lost Mohammad Rizwan (8) early but Azam and Fakhar Zaman (30) kept the innings under control with their 63-run stand.
“With the bat, we couldn't capitalise the powerplay as we wanted to. At the end, with Malik and Asif Ali, we knew they could do the job,” said Azam. “We planned our strategies well with the ball, and also ensured that he kept the uneven boundary dimensions in mind while bowling.
“Spinners were getting some grip from the track, Afghanistan have quality bowlers too and I was trying to take it as deep as possible. Unfortunately, I couldn’t finish things off but credit to Asif Ali.”
Afghanistan skipper Mohammad Nabi looked to count the positives from the match after his team took the game deep.
“We didn't start well but the total on the board was a decent one for this pitch. We discussed that 150 would be a good score and so we dug deep. And then got some runs in the last few overs,” he said.
“I think three spinners are enough. Rashid bowled at the right time and we tried to take the game deep. Asif Ali played really well in the 19th over. Lot of positives from today's game. We fought really well till the end.”
Asif Ali, who was adjudged the Player of the Match, for his unbeaten 25 runs off 7 balls, said he was always confident of getting the runs. “I was confident of finishing it off from this end and that's what I told Shoaib Malik before he got out,” he said.
“I look at the situation of the match, and I target the bowlers accordingly. I was talking to Shoaib when I walked-in to bat and I told him that I was confident enough of getting 20-25 in one over against Karim Janat, which I did.”