“Promise me Naseem Shah, you will be a super star!”

When he left Pakistan for the Asia Cup, Naseem Shah promised his mentor Sulieman Qadir, son of Abdul Qadir, that he would do his best to be a super star of Pakistan cricket. Sulieman had told him if he does well in the next six months, he can be the superstar like Shaheen Afridi. It was expected that the stardom would come with the ball, which he did rattling India in their first game, but on Wednesday night, he smashed two sixes that he would never ever forget in his life. Neither would Pakistan fans. Or Afghanistan fans. Or the Indians, for that matter, who saw their hopes snuffed out.

Until the last over Pakistan held the upper hand. And just when it seemed for the first time that Afghanistan held the advantage, Naseem Shah stepped up to hit two sixes that no one who watched will forget. Admittedly, they slipped out as full tosses from Fazalhaq Farooqui’s hand. Until then, Farooqui had bowled like a superstar, trapping Babar Azam in the first over and returning later to stop runs and pick wickets to drag Afghanistan back.

But just when history was calling, he couldn’t answer its call. Pressure. Sweaty fingers. And full tosses. Still, not everyone can put them away for consecutive sixes, especially a batsman down the order. But Naseem Shah walloped them both and dashed off on a manic run to nowhere. And when his team-mates caught up with him, the adrenalin was still flowing. He ripped the helmet off his head and flung it down and it took a while and lots of hugs to calm him down.

Fareed Ahmed vs Asif Ali brings back memories of Miandad vs Lillee

Eight years ago Fareed Ahmed ran through Pakistan with a seven-wicket haul in a U-19 encounter at Gaddafi stadium in Lahore to burst into imagination back home. Today, he tattooed himself in their brains for ever with a double-wicket over, especially that of the superb finisher Asif Ali. Even though they lost, Fareed vs Asif Ali would be giffed, talked, memed, and stay long in memory.

He was just hit for a six and responded with a slower bouncer that Asif top-edged to short fine-leg.

He found himself right in the path of Asif as he pumped his fist and roared. Clearly unimpressed with how close the bowler had come and celebrating right in front of his face, Asif stood and glared. Fareed didn’t budge. He stared back. Asif then shoved him off, and Fareed still kept staring. Asif then raised his bat as if he would strike, triggering memories of Javed Miandad and Dennis Lillee and in some ways this was even more dangerous. Luckily, the Afghan players swooped in to defuse the situation.

Shadab Khan vs Najibullah Zadran – Part 2

The Afghanistan fans and especially Najibullah Zadran’s would have gone into a flashback mode when Zadran walloped the legspinner Shadab Khan for a six over square-leg. Almost an action replay of what transpired in the last T20 world cup. A googly, full and on the leg stump line, was swept for a six. Then and now.

But Shadab had a few tricks up the sleeve, aided by memory perhaps. Back then, he had slipped a googly around the off and middle line and had Zadran edging a poke to the keeper.

He went for the same ball again and almost had his man, caught by the keeper Mohammad Rizwan again, but the ball just about missed the edge.
Immediately he began to crank up the pace on his googlies and leg breaks and the troubles continued for Zadran. The pace kept increasing – alternating from 80’s to 90’s. Then off the final delivery of the over came a 111kmph full ball that had Zadran hole out to long-on. Shadab raised his arms up and looked up to the skies. Deja-vu in Dubai.

From working as a labourer to get money to buy bat as a school kid to unfurling two dreamy sixes against Pakistan

Two glorious shots and out, that was Afghanistan’s talented batsman Rahmanullah Gurbaz’s stay in the middle.

It was short and fast from Hasnain Mohammad but it went devilishly quicker off Rahmanullah Gurbaz’s bat over long-leg. A gorgeous pull, it was. Next ball was fuller and it was thrown back from deep square-leg boundary, this time it was just a wristy flick. He would soon fall bowled to Haris Rauf, uncharacteristically swiping across the line.

When Rahmanullah Gurbaz was a school kid and in love with cricket, he didn’t find support from his parents. He needed money to buy a cricket bat and other equipments but he knew he wasn’t going to get one from his folks. So he devised a plan. Around then, his parents were building a house and off Rahmanullah went to the contractor and stuck a deal: I will work as a labour at the house, if you give me daily wages. “So I worked for 16-17 days,” he says in a video put up by Afghanistan Cricket Board. He would go to his school in the morning with his father, but slip out and run to the home to work. With that money he bought what he wanted. When his lies were eventually found, his family was very angry but it was also the moment they realised his love for the game.

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