Ashraful and Raqibul set up easy win
Led by an unusually cautious century from Mohammad Ashraful, the second of his career, Bangladesh cruised to a 96-run win over UAE in their Asia Cup opener in Lahore. Ashraful was supported by Raqibul Hasan, who made his second-successive 80-plus knock as the pair put on 141 off 122 balls before the left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak sealed the win, in the process becoming the third Bangladeshi bowler to take 100 wickets.
The UAE seamers had a tough time settling in after Bangladesh chose to bat, conceding six wides in the first two overs. Bangladesh did not make use of the freebies, however, as the over-eager Nazimuddin flirted with a perfectly-bowled outswinger from Zahid Shah. Ashraful, off the very next ball, had a lucky escape when an inside edge missed the stumps. He had two more slices of luck but the signs were ominous when he latched on to a short delivery from Amjad Javed.
Meanwhile, Tamim Iqbal, who'd struggled to get going, flicked Fahad Alhashmi to the fine-leg boundary to bring up Bangladesh's fifty and move into double figures. Ashraful then played a copybook extra cover drive against the wayward Javed to bring up the fifty-run stand.
The introduction of spin slowed things down but UAE missed a trick in not using offspinner Mohammad Tauqir after he conceded only six runs off three overs. Against the run of play, Tamim failed to heed Ashraful's call to avoid an unnecessary third run in the 24th over. As though venting his frustration at the run out, Ashraful played a stunning inside-out shot to reach his half-century, followed by another scorcher to the extra cover boundary off Shadeep Silva, though it grazed the hands of the cover fieldsman.
Raqibul, who batted with verve, made his intentions clear by lofting the left-arm spinner, Khurram Khan, one bounce to long-on. Ashraful then hit two successive boundaries against the same bowler, and ran sharp singles and twos with Raqibul as he moved from 73 to 100 without the aid of a boundary.
Raqibul, though, was aggressive, taking three boundaries apiece against Khurram and legspinner Arshad Ali as he picked up 27 from nine balls. He missed out on a golden opportunity to reach his maiden ton, however, when a top-edged pull sailed to the 'keeper Amjad Ali; UAE could have picked up two in two had Javed held on to a catch off Ashraful at long leg. Ashraful was run out soon after and was one of four wickets to fall in quick time. Dollar Mahmud ensured that they did not muddle up the finish, making 20 off 9 to take Bangladesh to their highest score away from home.
Javed gave UAE a flying start by taking ten runs off the first over bowled by Mashrafe Mortaza, hitting the first ball of the innings to the cover boundary before striking him over long-on in the sixth. But Mortaza had his revenge when he induced a top-edge from Javed, which was pouched by Tamim. Indika Batuwitarachichi lasted only two balls, trapped by Shahadat Hossain.
The two Ali's, Arshad and Amjad did not let the early wickets faze them and took the attacking route. Amjad was particularly impressive, twice driving the ball through the covers and once straight down the ground, but the shot which stood out was a flick off Mashrafe to the midwicket boundary which had a Caribbean flair to it. Arshad almost matched that stroke with a powerful pull off Shahadat. The duo had raised 32 off 28 balls, but their promising stand was stalled when Razzak, introduced in the ninth over, got Amjad to edge to first slip with his first ball.
Arshad kept up the fight, punishing a couple of short balls from Mahmud. But when spin was introduced at both ends, UAE found the runs hard to come by. Mahmudullah, bowling quickish offbreaks, then accounted for UAE's captain, Saqib Ali, who cut him uppishly to Shahadat at backward point.
Khan survived a couple of close lbw appeals, but got going by striking Mahmudullah for a couple of attractive boundaries, one to long-on and then past extra-cover. The 47-run fifth-wicket stand between Khan and Arshad ended when Arshad mis-hit Mahmudullah to Raqibul at midwicket. With wickets falling at regular intervals, Khan let loose a barrage of aggressive strokes. He reached his maiden half-century in the 38th over bowled by Mahmud, during which a misdirected throw from Ashraful gave him four additional runs. After Khan holed out to Razzak, Alok Kapali helped himself to a couple of wickets to seal the result.
Ashok Ganguly is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo