T20 World Cup: Babar, Afridi end Pakistan campaign with three wickets victory over Ireland

Lauderhill, June 17 (IANS) In what turned out to be a thrilling conclusion to their T20 World Cup campaign, Pakistan secured a nerve-wracking three-wicket victory over Ireland in Group A match of T20 World Cup, guided by the crucial contributions of Babar Azam and Shaheen Afridi.

Despite making the chase more complicated than it needed to be, Pakistan managed to sign off with a win, thanks to a combination of early breakthroughs and a late flourish from Shaheen.

The match began with Pakistan’s bowlers wreaking havoc on Ireland’s top order. Shaheen Afridi was in devastating form, snapping an eight-match streak without a first-over wicket. He delivered a masterclass in swing bowling, dismantling Andrew Balbirnie’s defenses with a perfect inswinger and following it up by getting Lorcan Tucker to edge one to Mohammad Rizwan.

Shaheen’s early burst left Ireland reeling at 32 for 6, with Mohammad Amir and Haris Rauf also chipping in with wickets.

However, Ireland mounted a gritty resistance through Gareth Delany and Mark Adair. The pair stitched together a 44-run partnership off 30 balls, attacking Shadab Khan and Abbas Afridi to keep the scoreboard ticking.

Imad Wasim, in what was likely his final game for Pakistan, cleaned up the lower order with exceptional figures of 3 for 8 in his four overs. But a determined cameo from Josh Little, who scored 22, helped Ireland reach a fighting total of 106.

Pakistan’s chase seemed straightforward initially, with Saim Ayub, Mohammad Rizwan, and Babar Azam making steady progress. By the eighth over, they appeared to be cruising, taking any sting out of the Irish attack. However, a middle-over collapse saw Curtis Campher and Barry McCarthy snatch four wickets for just 10 runs, leaving Babar stranded with a long tail to navigate.

With the game in a precarious balance, Abbas Afridi played a crucial role, scoring a quick 17 and reducing the target to 12 runs. Josh Little’s unfortunate calf injury forced Ireland to rely on spin against Shaheen Afridi, who seized the moment by smashing two sixes to seal the win for Pakistan.

Ireland’s fightback, led by Delany and Adair, was commendable. They understood the necessity of attacking to score runs, and their aggressive approach against Shadab and Abbas Afridi kept them in the game. Even when they lost wickets in clusters, the last-wicket stand between Little and Ben White, which added an unbeaten 26 runs, ensured they had something to defend.

In the end, Pakistan’s victory was more a relief than a celebration. While their bowlers, especially Shaheen, had set up the match brilliantly, the middle-order collapse highlighted the team’s vulnerabilities. Nonetheless, Babar’s steady hand and Shaheen’s late heroics ensured Pakistan finished their campaign on a high note.

Brief Scores:

Ireland 106 for 9 in 20 overs (Gareth Delany 31, Josh Little 22; Imad Wasim 3-8, Shaheen Shah Afridi 3-22) lost to Pakistan 111 for 7 in 18.5 overs (Babar Azam 32 not out, Saim Ayub 17; Barry McCarthy 3-15, Curtis Campher 2-24) by three wickets.



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