Babar, lower-order cameos guide Pakistan to 282/7

Useful cameos by lower-order batters help Pakistan post a competitive 282/7 against Afghanistan in their World Cup match. Skipper Babar Azam top-scored with 74, while opener Abdullah Shafique made 58. Iftikhar Ahmed's 27-ball 40 and Shadab Khan's 38-ball 40 proved crucial in the end.
Babar, lower-order cameos guide Pakistan to 282/7

Chennai | Skipper Babar Azam struck a composed half-century before useful cameos by lower-order batters guided Pakistan to 282 for seven against Afghanistan in their World Cup match here on Monday.

Opener Abdullah Shafique made 58 off 75 balls and Babar got 74 off 92 balls, but had it not been for the efforts of Iftikhar Ahmed and the returning Shadab Khan, Pakistan would have finished with far less than what they eventually achieved.

While Iftikhar smashed his way to a 27-ball 40, Shadab contributed a breezy 40 in 38 deliveries.

Expecting a slow pitch, the Afghans moved in with four spinners. However, the track turned out to be better than expected.

The Pakistani openers Shafique and Imam-ul-Haq (17) began on a cautious note and managed a 56-run stand.

While they brought up the side's 50 by the eighth over, Shafique was targeting pacer Naveen-ul-Haq.

Also, spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman was expensive in the first 10 overs of the powerplay.

The first delivery of the second powerplay saw the Afghans earn the first breakthrough, with Imam falling to speedster Azmatullah Omarzai off a short ball.

Nevertheless, the Men in Green barely panicked as Shafique joined forces with skipper Babar and put up a 54-run partnership for the second wicket.

At this point, spinners Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Kahn operated in tandem to keep things under control, not allowing the two batters in the middle to free their arms.

In the meantime, Shafique brought up his third ODI half-century, while Babar looked to mix aggression with caution.

It was the 23rd over when Azmatullah Omarzai finally got rid of Shafique, while a couple of overs later, Mohammad Rizwan (8) fell prey to Noor Ahmad, reducing Pakistan to 120 for three.

Babar and Saud Shakeel (25) paired up briefly for a 43-run stand for the fourth wicket, even as the run rate dropped a bit to put pressure on the batters.

The result was that Shakeel was dismissed by Mohammad Nabi in the 34th over, before Babar and Shadab Khan (40) stitched a 43-run partnership for the fifth wicket.

During this phase, Babar also scored his 30th ODI 50 before offering a catch to Nabi off Noor with the score reading 206 for five in the 42nd over.

Then, Shadab and Iftikhar took charge and propped up the team's score with their lusty hitting, adding 73 invaluable runs in quick time.

Naveen broke the stand by getting rid of Iftikhar in the final over, besides also dismissing Shadab.

As for the Afghan bowlers, left-arm wrist spinner Noor was the most successful and claimed three wickets for 49 runs in his full quota of 10 overs.

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