January 22, 2002

Pakistan fashion 49-run victory over Bangladesh at Chittagong

For the briefest of moments at Chittagong, home supporters must have glimpsed a pale parabola of joy as their bowlers broke through a Pakistani top-order fairly bristling with stalwart names. But at the end of the day, Pakistan had outplayed Bangladesh by the comprehensive margin of 49 runs to take the opening one-day international of the Coca-Cola series at the MA Aziz stadium.

On a misty morning and with a full crowd analysing his every move, Waqar Younis won the toss and did not hesitate to take first strike on a wicket that, in the initial hours of the morning, appeared to have taken upon itself the burden of proving the Pakistani skiper wrong.

Bangladesh's opening bowlers took maximum advantage of the juice in the pitch to strike repeatedly, delivering excellent spells to reduce the tourists to 67 for 4 after 20 overs. Debutant Tareq Aziz was the spearhead, bagging the vital scalp of Inzamam-ul-Haq (20) and bowling with misery otherwise.

At 88 for 5, the need of the hour was obviously consolidation, and this Rashid Latif and Abdur Razzaq did successfully. Working with patience and application, the pair added 80 crucial runs for the sixth wicket.

Latif went on to top-score with 79, his best score in one-day internationals. In cahoots with the tail, the wicket-keeper ensured that his team's total crossed the vital 200-run mark. Pakistan were bowled out for 202 in 49.5 overs, a fine performance by the host bowlers. Now all it needed was an equally inspiring display from the batsmen for Bangladesh to pull off a shock win.

Shoaib Akhtar, however, denied them any such satisfaction. Bowling with frightening pace, Shoaib returned figures of 8-1-9-2, effectively digging Bangladesh's grave. The home side never looked comfortable against the barrage of sheer pace, and the batsmen often ended up gifting away their wickets irresponsibly or, to vary the monotony, engaging in foolish run-outs. The first five wickets for 52 runs, and those were made at a very slow pace.

A stolid partnership between Khaled Masud and Enamul Haque stood as the only barrier against a humiliating defeat. The pair added 85 runs for the seventh wicket against the run of play, defending stodgily and running with alacrity to help their side past the 150-run mark.

It was, of all people, Inzamam-ul-Haq who broke their stand in the final over, dispatching Enamul Haque (32) caught at deep mid-wicket. His partner remained unbeaten on 56, his highest one-day score, as Bangladesh ended their innings on 153 for 7 after their 50 overs. Rashid Latif, predictably, was awarded the Man of the Match.

The match will no doubt just add to Bangladesh's steadily enlarging column of losses in one-day cricket, but it would take a die-hard pessimist to miss the silver lining. Bowling on subcontinental tracks, Bangladesh's pacers rocked a formidable batting lineup after two consecutive Test thrashings, a sign that bodes well for the future. The onus is now on the batsmen, as it has been almost since their inception into international cricket, to play responsible knocks and take advantage of their leather-slinging brethren's efforts.