Everyone loves an intense cricket match. The one that makes you wonder and anxious at the same time about what will happen in the next ball. Maybe a six will save the day or a wicket could happen.
However, sometimes this intensity takes an ugly turn. The gentleman's game doesn't remain peaceful and friendly. Rather it turns into violence. The audience in the stands gets violent and hurls curses or throws stuff at others. Sometimes, even cricket players do that.
That's what happened between Pakistan and Afghanistan in the match of Asia Cup 2022.
Before Naseem Shah's over, the win was in Afghanistan's hands. Pakistan’s descent commenced in the 16th over when Iftikhar Ahmed pulled a slower ball from Fareed Ahmad straight into the hands of deep midwicket, which concluded a 42-run stand for the fourth wicket with Shadab Khan.
Afghanistan attacked again in the following over through its best bowler Rashid Khan, who got the better of Shadab with a flighted leg-spinner outside off stump, compensating himself after allowing a six off his first ball of the over.
Ace finisher Asif Ali announced his appearance with a six off the very next ball. The chaotic nature of the over was an indication of things to come.
When Pakistan needed 25 runs in the last three overs, Farooqi did precisely what the Afghans were striving for - to knock down wickets. He caught Mohammad Nawaz's leg-before-wicket with a slower delivery off the first ball of the 18th over and knocked again off the last ball as Khushdil Shah chopped onto his stumps.
In the span of one over, the tide had turned in Afghanistan’s favor. Pakistan, however, had its ace card Asif Ali left to get 21 runs off the last twelve balls. Haris Rauf fetched an inside edge onto his stumps off the second ball of the 19th over before Ahmad slammed in a short and slow one, inciting a miscued hook from Asif. The ball ballooned up to a short fine leg, where Karim Janat backpedaled and grabbed the catch.
The extent of the wicket and the intensity of the moment spilled over into a mid-pitch confrontation between Asif and Ahmad. Heated words were exchanged between Asif and Ahmad after the former's dismissal, where Ahmad punched the air, close to Asif's face and Asif raised his bat for a brief moment, fringing on a threat. Before the incident could blow into a full-blown punch-up, the umpires intervened and defused the volatility. With Pakistan needing 11 runs off the last over with one wicket remaining, it was clear which team was about to win the match.
However, the pressure got the best of Farooqi, who had figures of three for 19 before the start of the final over. He missed his attempted Yorker as Number 10 Naseem Shah cleared off the boundary twice in the first two deliveries, sealing a thrilling one-wicket win and moving Pakistan forward in the tournament to face off Sri Lanka in the finals for the continental title.
The after-scenes of the match were beyond expectations.
While Pakistan was having jubilant celebrations in the dressing room as well as among the fervent fans at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, the Afghans were in a deep state of mourning, and a couple of them also broke down.
In the stands, a section of Afghanistan enthusiasts could no longer digest the reality of the defeat; they started breaking the bucket seats in the gallery and flinging those at the Pakistan supporters. This is one of the many cricket match fight moments.
Shortly it escalated into a furious exchange of profanities and plastic water bottles between the two sections before the local police interfered and swept them aside.
But the scuffle in the virtual world raged on. Former Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar wrote on his Twitter handle, captioning a video of the incident - “This is what Afghan fans are doing. This is what they’ve done in the past multiple times. This is a game and it’s supposed to be played and taken in the right spirit. @ShafiqStanikzai your crowd & your players both need to learn a few things if you guys want to grow in the sport.” and tagged former CEO of Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB), Shafiq Stanikzai.
Stanikzai was quick to reply and dismissed the concern by saying that the emotions of the crowd couldn't be controlled and such scenes have happened multiple times in the history of cricket.
Tension was stewing between the teams all day long. Pakistan’s bowlers would roar and growl on the faces of Afghanistan’s batsmen after getting them out.
This was not the first cricket match fight moment between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In the 2018 edition of the Asia Cup, Ali and Rashid Khan were involved in a fracas when Rashid wagged his finger at him after dismissing him.
The Pakistan crew began mocking and ridiculing him and insulting him with derogatory phrases and names.
A year later at the 50-over World Cup in Headingley, a match that ended in another last-over heartbreak for Afghanistan, some fans of both countries were bundled out of the ground after throwing chairs while some were denied entry as they were clashing outside the stadium.
Afghanistan and Pakistan have strained relationships, be it for political or geographical matters or cricket.
Both countries could never see eye to eye with each other and this match was just an example.
The tension was, unfailingly, poured onto the cricket field too. Afghanistan-Pakistan has a streak of hostility and opposition that goes beyond the 22 yards, rather across a 2640-km border. And all it took was two powerful hits from Naseem Shah to bring about the violent side of the rivalry.
Cricket highlights with such tension and controversy gain a lot of public attention and are viewed again and again. Such incidents are not just limited to international matches, but IPL match videos are also filled with such incidents.