Pakistan brush Bangladesh aside
Pakistan 257 (Hameed 102, Inzamam 58) beat Bangladesh 181 (Omar 62) by 76 runs
Yasir Hameed's elegant hundred, Inzamam-ul-Haq's brutal half-century and a strangulating spell from the bowlers sent Bangladesh hurtling to 76-run loss against Pakistan in the third match of the Asia Cup, played at the Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo. And, Pakistan picked up a bonus point to boot. The 109-run partnership between Hameed and Inzamam was the highlight of the morning session and their handling of the middle-overs proved to be the difference between the two sides.
Chasing 258 for victory on a pitch that got slower and lower as the match progressed, Bangladesh were stifled by the spin duo of Shoaib Malik and Danish Kaneria in the middle overs. Shoaib Akhtar, who was off colour in his first spell, reverse swung it towards the end and Bangladesh didn't have too many answers.
Bangladesh are no strangers to Hameed-heroics. They were at the receiving end of his huge scores in last year's series in Pakistan. His three hundreds, in Tests and one-dayers, kick-started his career in glorious fashion. In fact, he scored 82 when the two sides last met in a one-dayer.
This innings had most of his trademark shots - the cover-drive of the front and back foot, the flick from outside off to square leg and the chancy wild swish. On three or four occasions, the ball flew off the edge through the vacant slip region, but amid all that there were some delightful fours. He took charge of the opening partnership, with Imran Farhat showing signs of rustiness, and maintained the rate at five-an-over.
Hameed also played the supporting act when Inzamam was thrashing it around and both didn't let the initiative slip in the middle overs. He got a large dose of fortune on 64, when Mohammad Ashraful dropped a sitter at long-off. On a day when other batsmen showed rusty form, his slap-dash effort went a long way in helping Pakistan reach their final score.
Inzamam came in after the fall of two quick wickets as the bowlers were applying the brakes on the scoring-rate. He carted Mohammad Rafique, the left-arm spinner, for two towering sixes and got back the momentum that Hameed had given in the first 10 overs and was subsequently lost. Though both fell in successive balls, with 10 overs left, and despite the lack of lower-order pyrotechnics, only 57 in the last 10, Pakistan had reached a respectable score.
Javed Omar began the reply in positive fashion and Bangladesh were 48 for 0 after 10 overs. That was partly due to the lacklustre first spell by Shoaib Akhtar, with a shortened run-up that Bob Woolmer had suggested, as he sprayed it wide of the stumps. The result was four overs, no wickets, 12 balls left alone, two wides and a lukewarm Shoaib.
Sami was wayward too but there were a few unplayable jaffas in between. He got his reward in the 11th over when Ashraful nicked a wide one to Moin Khan (48 for 1). Habibul Bashar, the captain, had no clue to one of the Sami specials that cut him in half, but he was caught in front two balls later as an inswinger rapped him on the pads (52 for 2).
And there began the downhill journey for Bangladesh. Kaneria and Malik made good use of the slowness of the pitch and gave nothing away in the middle overs. Shoaib returned in the 31st and troubled all the batsmen with his reverse swing. He finished with three wickets - one lbw, one bowled and one catch of a bouncer - had a few very close leg-before shouts turned down, but continued grinning all through.
Bangladesh folded for 181, with Malik ending with two wickets, and Pakistan earned the bonus point too. A new tournament, a new coach, and lots of reverse swing - all looked fine with Pakistan.