SHARJAH: Captain Mohammad Hafeez applauded Afghanistan for their fighting performance in the first-ever Twenty20 international between the two nations, saying they are improving fast.
Pakistan clinched a last-ball thriller by six wickets in Sharjah on Sunday night after chasing a challenging 138-run target.
They needed six runs off the last over bowled by Dawlat Zadran and one off the last delivery, initially declared a wide but later deemed to be a no-ball.
Hafeez anchored Pakistan's nervy run-chase, finishing with a 37-ball 42 not out while opener Ahmed Shehzad scored 35 and Umar Akmal a fiery 23-ball 28.
"Credit goes to them (Afghanistan) for stretching the match to the last over," said Hafeez in his post-match comments late Sunday.
"They have earned their place with hard work which is paying off and I am sure they will learn from their mistakes."
Afghanistan have established their status as one of the best associate sides in the International Cricket Council by qualifying for their third successive World Twenty20, to be held in Bangladesh next year.
They also achieved their first qualification for the 50-over World Cup, to be jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand in 2015.
Hafeez said Afghanistan had improved greatly since they met Pakistan in a one-day international in Sharjah last year - their first against any top side.
Pakistan won that game by seven wickets.
"I can tell you that they have improved a lot and they got the score they wanted and bowled so tight that we couldn't hit big shots in the last few overs," said Hafeez.
He warned that his team must lift their game when they meet Sri Lanka in two Twenty20 matches in Dubai on Wednesday and Friday.
"We leaked runs, which we need to overcome against a top side like Sri Lanka," he said.
Pakistan will also play five one-dayers and three Tests against Sri Lanka - all in the United Arab Emirates.
"I am satisfied with my team's performance and it's a great platform for us in the future," said Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi, who scored 15 and took one wicket.
"I think we were 20-30 runs short and then missed some crucial run outs in the last few overs, which allowed Pakistan to sneak through."
Afghanistan now play Ireland in the five-day final of the ICC Inter-Continental Cup in Dubai.
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