Imad Wasim has tipped Afghanistan to be a “force to be reckoned with” as they gain more experience after Pakistan were pushed to their limits by their Asian neighbours at Headingley.
Pakistan slipped to 156 for six in pursuit of 229 but Imad’s 49 not out saw Pakistan squeak home with three wickets and two balls to spare as they moved above England and into fourth in the World Cup standings.
An eighth straight defeat is an unfair reflection of Afghanistan’s performances, having also taken India into the final over before falling narrowly short, and Imad believes the future is bright for Gulbadin Naib’s side.
Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb Ur Rahman were instrumental for Afghanistan in steaming temperatures on Saturday but Imad is insistent he was not feeling any nerves at Pakistan’s situation.
He said: “No, it wasn’t like that. We’ve got very good players in the end. I knew if one of us stayed in we would have made it.
“Rashid Khan was bowling brilliantly, if you take a chance you might gift him a wicket so we’re like ‘just don’t give a wicket to Rashid Khan and then the rest we will see how it goes’.
“Their spinners are world-class. If they score consistently 250 or 260 on any track they can cause trouble to any team.
“Credit goes to Afghanistan, the last five years they rose up and they’re giving a tough time to every team.
“They gave India a tough time and they gave us a tough time. Afghanistan is a force to be reckoned with in a couple of years’ time.”
Imad was given not out on one when pinned on the pad by Rashid and had Afghanistan not spurned their review earlier, the decision would have been overturned.
He followed up his two for 48 to help restrict Afghanistan to what seemed a modest 227 for nine at the halfway stage, only Pakistan’s top order to succumb to spin.
Imad said: “There weren’t good shots at that stage but these guys have won us games many times. It had to be someone else.
“The result doesn’t matter to me because if I give 100 per cent and the rest follow we are good enough to beat any side on a given day. It was a great innings.”
A carnival atmosphere created inside the ground was soured slightly by some crowd trouble as the match wound to a close, with a minor pitch invasion following Imad scoring the winning runs.
Hours earlier, the International Cricket Council announced it was investigating “scuffles among a minority of fans” following an incident during the day.
“We worked with the venue security and police throughout the day to ensure any issues were dealt with as efficiently as possible,” the ICC said in a statement.
“We constantly review our security plans and will continue to do so to ensure we’re providing the safest possible environment for fans to enjoy the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup.
“We will not tolerate this type of behaviour, and will take appropriate action against any anti-social behaviour that spoils the enjoyment for the majority of fans.”
While Imad said “we didn’t know what happened”, Afghanistan captain Gulbadin implored followers of his team to stay out of trouble.
He said: “We want a friendship to anyone and we were excited to play this kind of tournament and this kind of match with anyone.
“This is only a cricket game, just watch like a cricket game. It’s a sport.
“I’m just playing for my country, cricket and nothing else. I request to all audience watching matches, please just watch like a sport, not like other.”
Pakistan took 18 from the 46th over bowled by Gulbadin, with Imad hitting three fours, but the skipper feels a hamstring injury to Hamid Hassan, who only bowled two overs, meant he was pressed into action.
He added: “I think the main turning point is Hamid. If Hamid was there, maybe I (would not have had to) bowl more than three or four overs.”
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