Wicket! Afghan b Shadab 42, Afghanistan 121-4
There was a growing sense this was coming. Shadab turns one out of the back of the hand, it jags past Afghan and clips the edge off stump. Terrific bowling, and once again Afghanistan have lost a man when well set.
25th over: Afghanistan 121-3 (Ikram 23, Afghan 42) Some heartening variety, bounce and spin from Imad who concedes only a few singles from a fine over. Pakistan might not be taking wickets but they have reined their opponents in well in the past few overs.
24th over: Afghanistan 117-3 (Ikram 20, Afghan 41) Shadab continues (does his name give anyone else a Joe Dolce earworm, or am I just weird and stuck in an early 80s pop vortex?) and keeps it tight, conceding three singles. Sensible risk-averse batting too.
“I was intrigued by the batsman’s name of Afghan,” writes Brian Withington, “idly reflecting that it was probably not an example of nominative determinism, whilst wondering if anyone called (Jonny?) English had ever been capped. Then I checked my ECB app and it shows the name as (Asghar) Stanikzai instead. What’s going on there?”
23rd over: Afghanistan 114-3 (Ikram 18, Afghan 40) Imad returns to the attack, and is pushed and nudged for three singles and then spins a beauty past Afghan’s edge. There’s turn out there now, which won’t dishearten Afghanistan, given their bowling strengths.
The OBO poetry relay continues, courtesy of Uma Venkatraman:
Australia refused to crack and won again, what a bore
India came unstuck, unexpectedly, and then there were three
Pakistan got the better of Bangladesh tigers to go on with their winning spree
On the road paved with fallen teams, marched the final two
In a repeat of 1996, Pakistan won this time too!
If that’s to be the case, they probably want to pull their finger out right now.
22nd over: Afghanistan 111-3 (Ikram 16, Afghan 39) Shadab is milked for four singles in an over that, rank full toss at the start aside, is pretty accurate. But right now Pakistan don’t look much like taking a wicket.
21st over: Afghanistan 107-3 (Ikram 14, Afghan 37) Wahab’s possibly over-doing it with the short stuff at the moment, sending down at least one short ball an over, which hasn’t greatly discomfited this pair, who are looking content with life at the moment. Three from the over, and the 50 partnership is registered.
20th over: Afghanistan 104-3 (Ikram 13, Afghan 35) Afghan takes a risky single after pushing Shadab through the offside – Ikram would have been in bother had the shy at the stumps hit. Ikram’s also in bother when Shadab rips a quick, bouncing turner past his outside edge. Good over, good contest. Half of the first 20 overs have been spin – eeh that would never have happened at Headingley of old.
19th over: Afghanistan 101-3 (Ikram 12, Afghan 33) Afghan crunches a glorious square cut to the west stand boundary for four more to take his team to three figures. They hurry a single through before Wahab tries to frighten the young’un, Ikram, with a couple of bouncers. But he survives
Got any ideas about what you’re going to listen to during the innings break? You do now – this:
18th over: Afghanistan 96-3 (Ikram 12, Afghan 28) Shadab has a slip in this time, but slip or no, overpitched deliveries gonna get punished, and this is a productive over for Afghanistan. First Afghan advances confidently to clobber one high through the covers for four, and then a couple of singles ensue before Aghan really gets hold of one, driving it high over long-on into the stand for SIX. The experienced player taking control here.
17th over: Afghanistan 83-3 (Ikram 11, Afghan 16) A pearler from Wahab, just back of a length, zips past Afghan’s outside edge and is followed by a decent in-swinger into the top of the right-hander’s pads. A soft-handed dab past backward point brings Ikram a single, the only run from the over. And that’s drinks.
16th over: Afghanistan 82-3 (Ikram 11, Afghan 15) Shadab Khan is brought into the attack from the Kirkstall Lane end, and finds genuine turn straight away, which Afghan edges through an unfathomably vacant slip area for four. Shadab won’t be too unhappy about that (other than the field placing). Five from the over
“Bairstow was wrong (and I suspect did not mean) to generalise about all pundits (and certainly OBO journalists),” says Brian Withington, “but for me was spot on the money about the two individuals in question. Can the former England captain from Yorkshire honestly say he’s looking forward to a match winning century from YJB tomorrow, rather than a gruesome first baller? And I half expect the other one keeps a doll of Eoin Morgan for sticking pins in when he’s not busy texting ‘his mates’ in the SA team.” Ah yeah, the war between 2005 and the future will always be with us.
15th over: Afghanistan 77-3 (Ikram 11, Afghan 10) The mercurial Wahab Riaz gets his first bowl of the day, and starts with two wides from three. He’ll come good, or maybe he won’t – he embodies the the great and the infuriating about Pakistan – but he concedes four more as Ikram glides down to the third man boundary. The response is the day’s first bona fide bouncer. Six from the over.
14th over: Afghanistan 71-3 (Ikram 7, Afghan 10) The Sky commentary team get my slightly hungover juices flowing by chatting at length about the joys of Bradford curries. Also getting those juices flowing is Asghar Afghan who clips Imad with effortless beautiful brutality into the Western
Stand for SIX. Two more follow with a slightly uglier hoik towards cow corner.
13th over: Afghanistan 62-3 (Ikram 6, Afghan 2) Ikram and Afghan cool things down by pushing some ones and twos about the place from a reasonable over by Hafeez. “Watching the review for the first wicket showing Shaheen in slow motion from side on,” says Dave Adams. “Has no-one taken any ‘interest’ in his action? Or is it my eyes…?” I have to confess I didn’t, but then I was furiously typing at the time.
Wicket! Rahmat c Babar b Imad 35
12th over: Afghanistan 57-3 (Ikram 3) Ikram slighly miscues a drifting arm ball from Imad, but it beats the man at point and brings him a single and Rahmat then gets his fifth boundary with a lovely deft scoop. And just as I was about to type that he looks good for 50 or more, Rahmat top-edges another arm ball from Imad, possibly deceived by its pace, and dollies it up to Babar running in from cover. Rahmat looks utterly crestfallen. He’d played so well, and so smartly, up to that point.
11th over: Afghanistan 51-2 (Rahmat 30, Ikram 2) More spin, Mohammad Hafeez replacing Shaheen. The 18-year-old Ikram finally gets off the mark with a nudge round the corner. The strike is rotated pleasingly by Afghanistan’s batsmen, though Hafeez may be encouraged by getting a decent amount of turn there. But Afghanistan have weathered the storm a little now.
10th over: Afghanistan 46-2 (Rahmat 27, Ikram 0) Imad begins his second spell, this time from the Kirkstall Lane End (how often has a spinner had two separate spells in an opening powerplay?). Funky stuff. He gives Rahmat plenty to think about, deceiving him into a risky mistimed chip just past the bowler towards mid-on and zips a beauty past Ikram’s outside edge to round off the over. The new man is still yet to score and yet to settle.
9th over: Afghanistan 45-2 (Rahmat 26, Ikram 0) Shaheen strays just a fraction towards leg and Rahmat pushes it off his hip and sends it careering down to the fine-leg boundary for four, but Ikram is somewhat more discomfited, beaten all ends up by a lovely inswinger. Five from the over.
“Veteran rant-watchers will surely recall Bob Willis going off on one in the immediate aftermath of the victory against Australia at Headingley in 1981,” recalls Justin Horton. Yep, all part of the game, and that one worked out Ok. If Bairstow makes a hundred tomorrow, everyone piling in on him now can consider themselves to have played their part. Jibing and mutual admonishment can work.
8th over: Afghanistan 40-2 (Rahmat 21, Ikram 0) Amir’s bowling very well, without reward so far, but if he keeps hitting these lengths and offering this little it will come. There’s not much Ramat can do with most of these but play them out sensibly, which he does. A nudged single on the onside is the sole scoring shot of an excellent over.
7th over: Afghanistan 39-2 (Rahmat 20, Ikram 0) Rahmat’s looking in fine touch this morning, and he sends an exquisitely timed drive past Shaheen for four before pulling over midwicket for two more. A glide to fine leg for a single completes a productive over for Afghanistan.
6th over: Afghanistan 32-2 (Rahmat 13, Ikram 0) Afganistan could probably do with a quiet over, and this one starts with a pleasing drive for one from Rahmat that brings Ikram on strike. He’s watchful as Amir finds some serious seam movement away from the left-hander, and survives a lbw verdict, correctly reviewing after the last ball of the over is inside-edged onto his pads and erroneously given out. That was fairly blatant.
“Don’t you think Bairstow has got it backwards?” asks Sayak Mukherjee. “If anything English sports writers are responsible for the hype that makes it feel like it is always coming home (and the subsequent doom and gloom when it inevitably doesn’t). Now, there is nothing wrong with hyping up your team but as with most things in life, moderation is key.” To be fair, and I know the English media can often be guilty of horrible, sometimes jingoistic, boosterism but we can only say what we see, and England have been frequently sensational in the past four years, and have hit the buffers a few times in this tournament.
Ikram is given out leg before off Amir but he thinks he’s inside-edged it. And the replays couldn’t be clearer. He has. Decision overturned.
5th over: Afghanistan 31-2 (Rahmat 12, Ikram 4) It’s all happening. The spin experiment ends and Shaheen, the star of the win over New Zealand, comes on … and his first delivery is spanked past mid-off for four by Gulbadin. Shaheen gets a bit riled and, next ball, concedes a couple of runs with a needless shy at the stumps from Gulbadin’s defensive prod, the ricochet from which gives the batsmen a chance to run two. The umpires check for a run-out anyway (never out), and Gulbadin thwacks the next ball high through the covers for four. Terrific stuff. Shaheen’s comeback is excellent though, and he thinks he’s got his man when Gulbadin thrashes outside off to the keeper. Sarfaraz reviews, and ultra-edge vindicates Pakistan. It gets better, as Hashmatullah then dollies up a catch first ball. The hat-trick ball is not as accurate, and cannons off Ikram’s pads down to fine leg for four. Fourteen runs and two wickets in that over. It’s not dull, this.
“As a lover of poetry and cricket,” writes Avitaj Mitra (is there even a difference between the two?), here’s my continuation of Abhijato’s poem:
“New Zealand suffered an unexpected dip, while the Bangladesh tigers came alive.. and then there were five.
England were in a quandary and could do nothing to prevent India shutting the door, and then there were four.”
Wicket! Hashmatullah c b Shaheen 0, Afghanistan 27-2
And another! The left-handed Hashmatullah miscues first ball to mid-off where Imad takes an easy catch. Shaheen is on a hat-trick.
Wicket! Gulbadin c Sarfaraz b Shaheen 15, Afghanistan 27-1
Pakistan make the breakthrough, as Gulbadin goes after hitting two glorious boundaries, edging behind and given out on review.
4th over: Afghanistan 17-0 (Rahmat 12, Gulbadin 5) Rahmat joins the fun, driving Amir to the long extra cover boundary for four and then pulling a short one high over midwicket for four more. Just as impressive thus far is Rahmat’s defensive play against the better balls. This is shaping up to be a fine little contest.
3rd over: Afghanistan 9-0 (Rahmat 4, Gulbadin 5) Gulbadin threads a gorgeous cover drive through the gaps to score the first boundary of the day in an otherwise tight over from Imad. Five dots and a four.
2nd over: Afghanistan 5-0 (Rahmat 4, Gulbadin 1) Amir opens from the Kirkstall Lane End, accompanied by an expectant roar – they know and we know just what a key man he’s been this summer – and he induces a play-and-miss from Rahmat with one that slants across him and just ducks back a fraction. Rahmat has to be watchful, with Amir offering him nothing. A maiden.
Another brief bit of England chat from Neil Waterfield: “Unfortunately Bairstow has got previous form for this sort of thing. When Foakes retained his place (at the expense of Bairstow) in Sri Lanka over the winter, YJB had a rant about ‘people who have never played the game’ ie journalists. He needs to grow either up, a thicker skin, or a pair!” Players want their Nasser in 2002 vindication moment I guess.
1st over: Afghanistan 5-0 (Rahmat 4, Gulbadin 1) Pakistan do an Afghanistan and open up with spin, with Imad Wasim tossed the new ball to get us underway from the rugby stand end. Rahmat gets off the mark with an assured clip to mid-on and Gulbadin likewise with a flick through midwicket. Two more follow when Rahmat plays the same clip on the onside. Good start for Afghanistan, and some confident strike rotation.
Anthem time – Afghanistan’s a jaunty, up-tempo number, Pakistan’s rather more regimented but still decently upbeat.
There’s already a cacophonous atmosphere inside Headingley, with Pakistan fans in the majority, and this should be an agreeably noisy one. Whatever other gripes one may have, the atmosphere inside the grounds has been generally excellent during this tournament, way more vibrant than for your bog-standard ODI.
“We need to talk about it,” says OB Jato, wagging a finger, turning the telly off and instructing us to sit down and jolly well listen. “Bairstow’s comments about the media wishing for his team’s failure: yay or nay?” Call it industry bias if you will, but I’d say nay – cricket writers are desperate for our sport’s profile to be pepped up by a successful England team, but the prickliness betrayed by Bairstow’s comments is a bit concerning. But let’s put it down to passions running high and move on eh.
Emails: Abhijato gets in first, as per with some verse
“A familiar rhyme can be made out of the World Cup so far:
“TEN of the world’s best came to England, expecting their batters to peacefully wine and dine
But Afghanistan exemplified how tough it was to get going, and then there were nine
NINE of the world’s best stepped down to the spinners, taking the baitSouth Africa got stumped time and again on their way through the exit gate, and then there were eight
EIGHT teams faced off in weather straight out of cricketing heaven
The Proteas took down Sri Lanka along with them, and then there were seven…..”
The next could well be as follows: “…..SEVEN teams remained when England were in a fix
Pakistan were on their roll, while India were clinical enough to ensure then there were six…..”
Will the rhyme continue as expected?
And they line up thusly:
Afghanistan: Gulbadin Naib (c), Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Asghar Afghan, Samiullah Shinwari, Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Ikram Alikhil (wk), Rashid Khan, Hamid Hassan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman
Pakistan: Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Haris Sohail, Sarfaraz Ahmed (c, wk), Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Shaheen Afridi
It’s a scorcher in Leeds, around 29 degrees, and is set to stay hot. Afghanistan haven’t batted first much in this tournament but, conditions-wise, this is as good a chance as any for them to rack up a decent score. They’ve never beaten Pakistan in ODIs though, losing all of their three previous meetings.
Afghanistan win the toss and bat
Gulbadin calls correctly and, citing an agreeable-looking sun-kissed pitch, opts to bat first. Hamid Hassan is back for Afghanistan, while Pakistan are unchanged, Wahab Riaz having overcome a spot of finger-niggle.
Some pre-match reading on some other game this weekend. Ali Martin on England:
Anjali Doshi on India:
And Barney Ronay on the overall state of England:
Morning/afternoon everyone, and welcome to World Cup derby day. We’ve got an Antipodean set-to at Lord’s coming up later but we start with an all-Asian match-up that nine days ago didn’t look as if it would have much riding on it, and I suspected I’d be sat here trying to talk up nothingness to a listless audience of dozens. But then Pakistan cornered-tigered their way to steely wins over South Africa and New Zealand, England started imploding and now all eyes are on the new-look Headingley.
Pakistan can smell a semi-final place, as a campaign that has veered as only a Pakistan campaign can between inept capitulation and ebullient dominance hots up. Most, though not all, of their batsmen have played their way into form, with Babar Azam in particular playing with exquisite technical excellence, while among the bowlers suddenly it’s a case of if Mohammad Amir doesn’t get you, Shaheen Afridi, Wahab Riaz or Shadab Khan probably will. They will leap with joyous abandon above England and into the top four with victory today.
Alternatively, Pakistan could fall apart again, though they’d have to do so spectacularly against an Afghanistan side who are still winless and have not had the kind of breakthrough campaign they might have wished for. Sure, they’ve been natural underdogs and this drawn-out format has done them few favours, but off-field rancour, some poor batting and unreceptive pitches have made this all a bit of an ordeal. That said, they ran India closer than anyone else has – by some distance – and those spinners can be a handful for anyone. They have plenty to play for here.
So, it might be scorching outside, but you wouldn’t want to stray too far from the cricket today. And nor would I. It all starts at 10.30am BST.