Amidst all the thrill of a gripping contest, it was the off-field rampage that grabbed headlines at Headingley where Pakistan inched past Afghanistan in the final over to keep their 2019 World Cup semi-final hopes alive. Here’s Richard Gibson’s report from the 2020 Wisden Almanack.
Afghanistan v Pakistan
Match 36, ICC Cricket World Cup 2019
June 29, 2019
The first World Cup meeting between these neighbours was marred by off-field violence. A mass charge at the gates on St Michael’s Lane was repelled, but fans attempting to circumvent security (and the price of admission) succeeded in scaling the walls behind the Western Terrace. Rival supporters scuffled and hurled objects at each other, in full view of the pitch, and there were numerous ejections. The authorities had hired 60 extra stewards, but seemed to have underestimated the mutual animosity.
This derived not only from border tensions, but from the fact that, though most of their players had learned the game as refugees in Pakistan, the Afghanistan team had grown closer to India, who host their home fixtures. The clashes intensified after a small plane towing banners reading “Justice for Balochistan” (a province of Pakistan, which has accused Afghanistan of harbouring Baloch insurgents) and “Help end disappearances in Pakistan” flew over the ground. The unpleasantness detracted from a nerve-jangling contest apparently heading Afghanistan’s way until its final throes.
Having used his spinners to strangle the scoring – Mohammad Nabi’s two for 23 remained the tournament’s meanest ten-over analysis – Gulbadeen Naib inexplicably brought himself on with 46 required from 30 deliveries. An increase in pace and misdirection produced 18 in the over, mostly to the clean striking of Imad Wasim. It was the turning point – although Gulbadeen later pointed to a hamstring injury restricting seamer Hamid Hassan to 12 balls, in what he had said would be his last international.
Imad sealed victory in the final over (Gulbadeen again), flashing his fifth four through the covers, to propel Pakistan above England into fourth place. A week after their near miss against India, Afghanistan remained winless, despite a return to form for their recently deposed captain, Asghar Afghan.
First published in the 2020 Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack