Pakistan batter Asif Ali and Afghan paceman Fareed Ahmed were embroiled in a heated confrontation during the closing stages of Wednesday evening’s thrilling Asia Cup match in Sharjah.
Tempers flared in the penultimate over of the T20 contest after Ahmed removed Ali for 16 with a bouncer that was top-edged towards short fine leg, where Karim Janat pouched the catch.
The dismissal left Pakistan needing 12 runs to win off nine balls with one wicket in hand, putting Afghanistan in a commanding position.
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Before Ali started making his way towards the dugout, Ahmed pumped his fist and roared with delight directly in front of the 30-year-old.
The right-handed batter responded by shoving Ahmed before walking towards the sheds, only for the Afghan bowler to offer a few words of advice.
Ahmed then spun around and lifted his bat in the air, seemingly threatening to strike his opponent in scenes reminiscent of Javed Miandad’s infamous encounter with Dennis Lillee in 1981.
The pair came into contact again before Afghanistan youngster Azmatullah Omarzai intervened, separating the cricketers.
Former Afghanistan captain Dulbadin Naib tweeted: “This is stupidity at extreme level by Asif Ali and should be (banned) from the rest of the tournament, any bowler has the right to celebrate but being physical is not acceptable at all.”
According to reports, Ali and Ahmed are expected to be fined under Level 1 of the ICC’s Code of Conduct following the incident.
Pakistan ultimately won the nail-biting contest by one wicket, with teenager Naseem Shah smacking two sixes in the final over to secure the unlikely victory.
“To be honest, it was quite a tense environment in the dressing room,” Pakistan skipper Babar Azam said after the match.
“I was in the dressing room … I thought it is cricket and I have seen Naseem bat like this, so I had a little bit of belief.”
The result means Pakistan will face Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup final, knocking India and Afghanistan out of the tournament.
“The boys were brilliant with the ball and in the field, but again we didn‘t finish well,” Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi said.
“We didn’t control our nerves at the end. We gave two options to the bowlers, slower balls and yorkers, and sadly we couldn’t execute it when we needed to.”
There was also violence in the stands on Wednesday, with spectators filmed throwing chairs after Shah hit the winning runs at Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
Fans are shown attacking other patrons with plastic chairs in the ugly footage, which circulated social media platforms on Thursday morning AEST.
Ali was one of three Pakistani cricketers picked up by the Hobart Hurricanes at last month’s Big Bash League Draft, alongside spinner Shadab Khan and all-rounder Faheem Ashraf.
“I think that Shadab and our first couple of picks were exactly the ones that we were after,” former Australian captain and Hurricanes’ head of strategy Ricky Ponting said.
“We were surprised that Shadab got to where he did. It was a hole in our squad that we needed to fill; a quality spinner that’s a three dimensional player. We wanted to add some power to our middle order.
“With the guys that we retained with Short, Wade and McDermott, we’ve got really good top order batting, we wanted to strengthen our power in the middle around Tim David and I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that today.”