Pakistan find a way to avoid repeat of England's Headingley horror show

At times, those in attendance for Pakistan versus Afghanistan on Saturday could have been forgiven for thinking they were watching a replay of Headingley's previous Cricket World Cup clash.

As it was for England's meeting with Sri Lanka eight days prior, the sun was shining brightly, turning the Carnegie Pavilion's glass-fronted media box into a greenhouse.

And, once again, the underdogs batted first and toiled their way to what looked an under-par total.

Sri Lanka had mustered 232-9 against the tournament hosts, and this time around Afghanistan were only five shy of that score, having lost the same number of wickets to an attack led impressively by left-arm quick Shaheen Afridi (4-47).

There had been little question last week England would knock off their target and cruise to a fifth win in six to continue their serene progress towards a semi-final spot, only for Sri Lanka to choke the life out of their chase and seal a stunning triumph.

And for long periods on Saturday there was an unmistakable symmetry as Afghanistan bowled with superb control, forcing their opponents to come under increasing pressure.

There was one key difference at the dramatic denouement, however, as Imad Wasim showed the cool head required to get his side over the line with three wickets and two balls to spare to move Pakistan into the semi-final places, above England.

An early parallel between England's chase and that of Pakistan saw Fakhar Zaman fall lbw to the second ball of the innings, just as Jonny Bairstow had last week.

Even after that early wobble, Pakistan appeared to be in control at various stages of their innings, as Haris Sohail and Mohammad Hafeez rebuilt after the quickfire departures of set batsmen Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam.

The latter pair perished at the hand of Mohammad Nabi, whose wily off-breaks returned 2-23 – just as fellow veteran Lasith Malinga had used all his nous and experience to outfox England.

Any failure to chase down a seemingly moderate target always features a moment or two of madness. Moeen Ali took the flak for going six and out against Dhananjaya de Silva in the 39th over, and Pakistan looked to be edging closer to self-destruction at the same stage here as captain Sarfraz Ahmed unwisely came back for a second and was run out.

England's last vestige of hope had been provided by hard-hitting left-hander Ben Stokes, and Pakistan's man for the occasion this time was carved from a similar mould in Imad, who swung the chase in his favour by taking 18 runs off Afghanistan captain Gulbadin Naib in the 46th over.

The next set of six garnered 10 more and when Wahab Riaz swiped Rashid Khan into the teeming green mass of the Western Terrace, Pakistan were down to a manageable run a ball.

That Imad's winning boundary off Gulbadin was greeted by ugly scenes of crowd trouble and fans running onto the field was an unsavoury way for such a captivating contest to finish.

But the bottom line for Pakistan was they flipped the script at just the right time, succeeding where England failed and avoiding the fate that befell the tournament hosts, who are under enormous pressure to regain their top-four berth when they face unbeaten India at Edgbaston on Sunday.

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