June 2, 2000

Pakistan crush Bangladesh before vital clash

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After the run feast that happened in the early part of the day, there was nothing much to look forward to as Pakistan took the field. Maybe Wasim Akram would charge in and make the ball talk. Even that did not happen. At the end of the day, it made absolutely no difference to the result. Pakistan go through to their next encounter in the Asia Cup against India tomorrow, having beaten Bangladesh by 233 runs at the Bangabhandu stadium on Friday.

The crowd went silent as wicket after wicket fell on what was as docile a wicket as you would see. Habibul Basher who made a half century against India provided the lone resistance. Even that was only a token resistance. His 23 provided the crowd with some relief from a seemingly unending list of soft dismissals.

For Pakistan, the wickets were shared around. Abdur Razzaq bowled the straightest of the lot and was the most successful, bagging three wickets. Bangladesh ended on 87 all out. Shariar Hossain could not bat after as he was seriously dehydrated earlier in the day and left the field. This was Bangldesh's lowest total in limited overs cricket. To add insult to injury, this was also the largest margin of victory in a limited overs match beating the 232 run thrashing that Australia handed out to Sri Lanka in 1987.

When cats run around among pigeons, mayhem is the only result. Imran Nazir was licking the cream off his whiskers as bowler after bowler tried his luck at stemming the rot. Fortunately for the hosts Saeed Anwar was motoring sedately along at a run a ball. Driving the ball with more elegance than the rampaging Nazir, Anwar found the gaps with consummate ease.

Nazir showed no restraint and his onslaught was so overwhelming that the crowd was on its feet in excitement. When the ball was up for the drive it disappeared over either mid off or mid on. If the ball was short it was anybody's guess where it disappeared. Even deliveries pitched well outside the off stump disappeared over mid wicket. Nazir opened his shoulders and unleashed raw power. The fact that he was dropped twice did little to deter the youngster.

The man took the brunt of the bashing was roly poly Khaled Mahmud whose two overs disappeared for 31 runs. Needless to say, he was quickly removed from the attack by an embarrassed captain.

Saeed Anwar walked across after one such dropped catch and cautioned his opening partner. The next ball Anwar faced, the first of the day from Naimur Rehman uprooted his off stump. Coming a bit down the track, Anwar played down the wrong line and lost his off stump. He had contributed 31 to a total of 83.

Yousuf Youhana who more than helped Pakistan save one Test match in the West Indies came in at one drop, much ahead of his customary number five position. His presence at the crease brought a semblance of normalcy to the proceedings. Although he smacked the second ball he faced to the fence, he was in principle at least more selective in shot making.

With temperatures rapidly approaching the mid forties, and humidity at over 80% it was but natural that things slowed down. And at the halfway mark of their innings, Bangladesh had lost one man to the weather. Shariar Hussain holding his thighs and calves fell flat on the ground and simply could not get back up. He was soon half carried off the field by his team mates.

There was no stopping Imran Nazir. Playing strokes all around the wicket, the youngster was going along merrily when a bit of bad running between the wickets stopped him dead in his tracks. After starting and stopping and starting again he was found short of his ground by a neat bit of fielding by Aminul Islam.

Youhana was joined by Inzamam ul Huq out in the middle and from the word go neither were in any manner of strife. All of a sudden, a glance at the scoreboard revealed the fact that Youhana had helped himself to 80 runs. Against the grain of play, Nazir was dismissed when he looked good for a century. The same happened with Youhana. Overbalancing against left arm spinner Enamul Hoque, Youhana was a tad late getting back to his ground and Khaled Masud behind the stumps had the bails off in a flash.

The hugely popular Shahid Afridi walked out to a generous round of applause from the crowd. After playing and missing at a good many balls, Afridi finally connected. And the result was the same each time - the ball went crashing to the fence. Having adopted the mid wicket fence as his preferred destination, Afridi clouted everything that was bowled at him in that direction.

At the other end Inzamam was all smiles as he toyed with the bowling. Standing tall, the man from Multan drove superbly through both off and on side. If Afridi was the beast, Inzamam was the beauty. Using deft touches, a dab around the corner and a tap past short third man Inzamam gathered runs at a good pace. As the innings drew to a close however, no one was in the mood for anything delicate. Taking turns, Afridi and Inzamam clouted the ball round the park. Even when they did hit the ball straight to the fielder the catches were grassed.

The two remained unbeaten as Pakistan posted 320, the highest score in the Asia Cup competition. Inzamam was on 75 and Afridi 45 when the umpires ended the action and took the players off the field. Fifty overs of maximum viewing pleasure had come to an end.

One must however spare a thought for the Bangladesh side. Pushing hard for Test status that they will in all likelihood attain in the near future, the team was helpless and often clueless. Taken most to task was mediumpacer Khaled Mahmud whose 10 overs cost him and Bangladesh 81 runs.