Akmal and Butt set up 23-run victory
A total of 309, disappointing given that Pakistan had been 151 for 0 in the 23rd over, ultimately proved sufficient as they wrapped up the series with a 23-run win over Bangladesh. The bulk of the total came from centurions Kamran Akmal and Salman Butt, one trailblazing and the other smoothing over some middle-order cracks.
Tamim Iqbal and Aftab Ahmed's sparkling approach to a daunting target and Shakib Al Hasan's 75 with the lower order kept visions of a memorable chase under satisfactory lights at the Gaddafi Stadium flickering but it all proved a bit quixotic as Shahid Afridi snapped up two wickets in the 46th over to end their hopes.
Promoted to open in the absence of an injured Nasir Jamshed, Akmal teed off with a manic 81-ball 100 before Butt rounded off with a more measured and career-best 132. From 17 in seven overs Pakistan went to 51 from ten and after the completion of the Powerplays they were 132, thanks largely to Akmal's belligerence. Given lives on 1 and 19 he revved up the pace after a watchful start with three consecutive fours in the eighth over.
He took a particular liking to Abdur Razzak, making room to cut square of the pitch repeatedly as he reached fifty off 43 balls. Razzak continued to struggle for length and with no assistance from the surface Akmal milked runs. His timing only improved as he trained his attention towards Farhad Reza, smacking three fours in one over. A fourth hundred came shortly afterwards and was raucously cheered by a sparse crowd - 70 runs had come in boundaries - but Akmal remained on 100. Backing away once too many in an attempt to steer spin away cheekily, he was bowled by Mahmudullah. It was his first score of fifty or more in just shy of a year.
Pakistan's total should have been sizably larger but Bangladesh pulled matters back superbly with three more wickets in six overs. Butt stuck around to ensure a superb platform wasn't entirely squandered, scoring his fifth ODI hundred and first against anyone but India. Butt has often stepped on the accelerator early in his innings but today he kept up one end tightly. His shots remained positive while his footwork minimal and it paid off on a track without much spin. There were few boundaries along the way but Butt scored at a healthy clip and eased to his hundred.
Here Bangladesh, through their pace bowlers, hit back again to limit the damage in the last ten overs efficiently with four wickets for 72 runs, Pakistan basically crawling past 300. Tamim and Aftab shrugged off a watchful first few overs, during which Pakistan drew first blood with the wicket of Shahriar Nafees, to add 90 in 13 overs. Tamim's shots were almost all power and beauty and no crude hoicks. The two Sohails, Tanvir and Khan, didn't allow any free runs with the new ball and Tamim made room to carve the ball through extra cover or drill it straight. His driving was especially eye-pleasing as he kept the run rate at bay and his fifty came up from 52 balls.
However, a bullet piece of fielding from Fawad Alam at third man cut Tamim short on 63 and Aftab's repeated attempts at reverse-sweeping proved his downfall after a perky 42, with Akmal holding onto a simple catch. Mohammad Ashraful succeeded in running himself out for 16 and it left much for Shakib and the lower order to do under a burgeoning run rate. They didn't throw in the towel, refreshingly. With ten overs to go, 103 needed, and six wickets in hands Bangladesh had a sniff as Shakib and Mahmudullah (24) combined for to add 59.
Shakib top-scored with a plucky 75 that limited the margin of defeat, highlighted by some fine inside-out shots against Alam and some great running. It helped Bangladesh past their previous best against Pakistan, 245, but as the asking rate kissed 13 a truly fine knock came to an end with a paddle against Afridi, whose double-wicket over properly ended the chase. Mortaza and Dhiman Ghosh took 19 off the 47th over from Iftikhar Anjum to rattle Pakistan a bit and Bangladesh's 285 was their best against quality opposition. Sadly, the series's most compelling match was watched by a threadbare crowd. With two games to go the hosts may well ring in some changes with bigger challenges to come this season.
Jamie Alter is a staff writer at Cricinfo