Akmal's learning from his mistake
After Pakistan's 12-run loss to Sri Lanka two days ago, Misbah-ul-Haq had rued Umar Akmal's dismissal, which he thought was ill-timed. If there had been one more of those, against Afghanistan, Pakistan's collapse would have spread to the tail faster and resulted in a more difficult second half of the game.
In the Asia Cup opener, Akmal and Misbah added 121 runs for the fifth wicket, which took their chase to an advanced stage. Pakistan still had six wickets in hand when they entered the last 10 overs, but Akmal fell to a wide Suranga Lakmal delivery that could have been resisted even at that stage of the game. Pakistan lost their way from that point, as Misbah was unable to force the chase without a solid enforcer at the other end.
On Tuesday too, Akmal did give a chance when batting on 28 but Samiullah Shenwari misjudged the skier at point. It kept Pakistan on 146 for 6, but it could have been a lot worse. It was unusual to see Akmal bat that way, despite having such a wide repertoire of shots.
Some numbers also back him. Since August 2009, when he made his ODI debut, he has scored more runs than MS Dhoni among the No. 6 batsmen in matches won. In all games, Akmal is the second-highest scorer at the position during the same period, this time behind Dhoni. He averages less than Dhoni due to the Indian captain's ability to stay unbeaten more often.
It is clearly not a comparison with Dhoni but just circumstantial, and these figures demonstrate how important a batsman Akmal is to Pakistan's one-day setup, as well as being an effective No. 6, which he displayed during his hundred.
Akmal batted like he did against Sri Lanka on Tuesday evening, with a lot of awe-inspiring shots particularly through the on side. He used the bottom hand very well, particularly in the end overs. He ended up hitting seven fours and three sixes, bringing the momentum back to Pakistan.
He had arrived at the crease on the back of Misbah's comical run-out in the 24th over. He saw Sohaib Maqsood and Shahid Afridi hand more advantage to Afghanistan, but with Anwar Ali, Akmal wrested back the control.
Akmal added 60 runs with Anwar for the seventh wicket and another 40 for the eighth wicket with Umar Gul. It helped setup a final thrust, which got them 48 runs in the last five overs.
For a batting line-up that was in tatters before the 30th over, the last push was invaluable. Right at the end, Akmal decided to play out the final over, which enabled him to reach his second ODI hundred too. He celebrated long and hard upon reaching the landmark, which would definitely seem out of place for an innings against a less-experienced bowling attack.
But it was a personal triumph for Akmal, having now corrected his mistake that was so crucial in the defeat to Sri Lanka. This time he didn't disappoint his captain with a silly shot, sometimes that can be a big enough triumph.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here