As soon as Afghanistan scored the winning runs to cross the finish line, chasing 283 for victory, the team’s dug out at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai erupted to celebrate their first ever ODI win against Pakistan.
Seen exchaning hugs and smiles in the Afghanistan jersey was Jadeja, who was hailed by former India captain Sachin Tendulkar and former Pakistan skipper Shoaib Malik as one of the architects of Afghanistan’s two big wins so far in this World Cup.
Before upsetting 1992 champions Pakistan, the Afghans had stunned the defending champions England.
“Afghanistan’s performance at this World Cup has been nothing short of outstanding…It could possibly be due to a certain Mr. Ajay Jadeja’s influence,” Tendulkar wrote in his post on microblogging websie ‘X’ (formerly Twiter).
Across the border in Pakistan, a similar sentiment echoed when Malik hailed Jadeja’s sharp mind as one of the factors helping Afghanistan play the attacking brand of cricket.
“I have seen Ajay Jadeja sitting in their dug out. I have worked with him during the 2015 World Cup for one of the channels in India. Great cricketing mind. Absolutely!” said Malik while speaking on news channel ‘A Sports’.
“Having the right people around you or around the team does matter,” Malik added.
Jadeja is also part of the famous India vs Pakistan folklores. His 25-ball 45, which included taking Waqar Younis apart, in India’s win over Pakistan in the 1996 World Cup quarterfinal at Bengaluru is one of the most reverred moments from the cricketing rivalry.
On Monday, led first by teenage spinner Noor Ahmad’s spell of 3/49 and then a half-century each from their top three batsmen, Afghanistan scripted their second big upset of the tournament.
Openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz (65) and Ibrahim Zadran (87), who was adjudged ‘Player of the Match’, gave a rollicking start to the Afghan run-chase by puting up a big partnership of 130 runs. Rahmat Shah, batting at No. 3, ensured that the momentum was not lost and stayed unbeaten through the end at 77. Skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi played an equally important knock of 47 not out in an undefeated partnership of 96 runs with Shah.
Watch: Afghan cricket players perform ‘lungi dance’ after beating Pakistan
It was Pakistan’s third straight defeat after opening the tournament with two consecutive wins.
The win moved Afghanistan to No. 6 on the points table with two wins in five matches, while Pakistan stayed No. 5 with the same results and points, ahead on net run rate.