Pakistan thrash sorry Bangladesh
A clinical performance from Pakistan saw them coast to a ten-wicket win over Bangladesh in the inconsequential final Super Four match of the Asia Cup. In a refreshing change at the National Stadium in Karachi, the bowlers dominated the proceedings in the first session but for Bangladesh it was the same old story as their innings folded at 115 all out - the tournament's lowest total.
On a pitch offering sideways movement and extra bounce, Abdur Rauf sliced through the top order with three wickets and Iftikhar Anjum bowled an astonishing six maidens - equalling the record for a Pakistani - to put the hosts on course. Half-centuries from openers Nasir Jamshed and Salman Butt helped complete the formalities with more than 30 overs to spare.
The plethora of big scores that have been easily chased down hasn't dissuaded captains from choosing to bat first, and Mohammad Ashraful continued the trend. While Sohail Tanvir extracted significant lateral movement from the pitch initially, it was Rauf who got the early wickets.
On one of the cooler days of the tournament, on a difficult pitch, Bangladesh's batsmen compounded their troubles with some ill-advised shots. Opener Nazimuddin attempted to pull a short delivery in the second over from outside off and only managed to top-edge it to Shoaib Malik at cover.
Ashraful and Tamim Iqbal didn't bring out their strokes except when the bowlers erred, but their steady approach lifted Bangladesh to 41 for 2. Ashraful hadn't connected with an attempted hook in the ninth over but got hold of a short one from Rauf in the next to launch it over the midwicket boundary. Rauf's next ball was a fast bowler's classic reply: a snorter aimed at the body which forced Ashraful to give Misbah-ul-Haq a catch at point.
Raqibul Hasan has shown a heartening and - for a Bangladesh batsman - rare ability to stick it out in the middle but this time he went for an ambitious hook first ball off Tanvir to hole out at short fine leg.
With Bangladesh at a dicey 49 for 3, Rauf came up with the best over of the match. The first ball was a sharp bouncer which Tamim fended to slip, and Alok Kapali barely survived the next five torrid deliveries - a couple of well-directed bouncers, and a mixture of incoming and away-going deliveries.
Iftikhar Anjum followed the Rauf formula of throwing in a surprise bouncer while also testing the batsmen against the deliveries which seamed off a length. Kapali struck three boundaries in Anjum's first over but he was undone by the extra lift in the pitch as well. It was a superb comeback by Anjum, conceding only seven runs in his last nine overs and beating the bat on umpteen occasions. He finished with figures of 10-6-20-2 and was unlucky to not get more wickets.
Saeed Ajmal backed up the good work of the fast bowlers, picking up two late-order wickets off his doosra, which the batsmen struggled to pick as Bangladesh folded in the 39th over.
The flimsy total wasn't going to be much of a challenge for a Pakistan batting line-up that convincingly chased down 309 against India on Wednesday. Jamshed provided the early momentum, repeatedly carting the bowlers in the arc between long-on and midwicket as Pakistan went into the dinner break at 23 for no loss.
Shahadat Hossain extracted the same bounce which aided the Pakistan bowlers, and troubled both openers in the first over after the resumption but there were few alarms after that. Pakistan scored a boundary in virtually every over with a series of off drives off Mashrafe Mortaza and Shahadat.
There was a brief lull after spin was introduced at both ends before Butt carved Abdur Razzak through extra cover in the eighteenth over. That opened the floodgates as Jamshed pummelled Mahmudullah over long-on for six and brought up his fifty with a swept four to midwicket. Butt also completed his fifty with three sweeps to the boundary off Razzak before an authoritative cut put Bangladesh out of their misery.
Bangladesh are still without a win against challenging opposition since last year's World Cup and the poor showing at the Asia Cup isn't the sort of preparation they'd want ahead of a tough tour of Australia.
Siddarth Ravindran is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo