Pakistan’s match-winner Imad Wasim revealed it was a deliberate ploy to target Afghanistan captain Gulbadin Naib’s bowling in the final overs of a contender for the match of the World Cup to date.
Gulbadin, who had the option of seeing out the overs with his collection of impressive spinners, reintroduced himself to the attack with Pakistan needing 48 off 30 balls to chase down a target of 228 at Edgbaston and move into the semi-final spots at England’s expense.
It proved to be one of the tournament’s less judicious captaincy calls as his comeback over went for 18 and, despite subsequently losing Shadab Khan to a second run out, Pakistan got home with three wickets and two balls to spare thanks to Imad’s unbeaten 49 and a vital Wahab Riaz cameo of 15.
Speaking to Sky Sports in front of a raucous Headingley crowd, Imad said, “When I went in Rashid Khan was bowling brilliantly – I couldn’t pick him, to be honest. I thought ‘let’s just hang in there, play 50 overs and we’ll see the result.
“(Gulbadin) was the only bowler to be targeted. The wicket was turning square, and they have world-class spinners. You try and take singles and twos, and when the fast bowler comes on you attack.
Pakistan’s campaign continues to mirror that of 1992, when they won once in their opening five games only to go on and lift the trophy, and Imad said, “Win the next game, and you never know what happens. We believe we can win from anywhere.”
Gulbadin deflected questions about his decision to return to the attack in place of Samiullah Shinwari, the part-time leg-spinner whose eight overs had cost just 32 runs, and instead suggested Hamid Hassan’s departure to injury after just two of his allotted overs was the key factor in Afghanistan’s latest defeat.
“Maybe with Hamid it’s difficult for them,” he said. “We missed Hamid Hassan – this is the main point, the turning point.”