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The Bulletin by Kanishkaa Balachandran
April 19, 2008
It was as if the series result was decided even before Bangladesh agreed to tour the country. Pakistan took their second consecutive 5-0 series sweep at home - their first was against Zimbabwe - with a comprehensive 150-run victory in the fifth and final one-dayer at the National Stadium and extended their winning streak to a record 11. The win was set up by a career-best 136 off 124 balls by Salman Butt, and his stand of 179 for the second wicket with Younis Khan propelled Pakistan to a massive 329 which proved way beyond reach for Bangladesh who effectively lost the game after Mohammad Asif inflicted a top-order wobble.
Shoaib Malik had no hesitation in batting first after winning the toss, a move prompted by the fact that there was little chance of dew troubling the bowlers later in the evening. It was a good toss to win, as the batsmen were rarely challenged under the blazing afternoon sun.
The pitch had a sprinkling of grass, though it only helped to bind the cracks together. The opening bowlers, Mashrafe Mortaza and Shahadat Hossain, bent their backs early, hoping to get some pace and nip, but the pitch wasn't very cooperative. That was to be the trend through Pakistan's innings after Kamran Akmal's early departure, when Butt and Younis took control and milked the bowling authoritatively.
The feature of Butt's innings was the ease with which he lofted the ball into the gaps while staying rooted to the crease. The surface wasn't by any means quick, and Butt merely stayed back, waited for the ball to come to him before powering it past the infield. The outfield was lightning quick and all Butt had to do was to place it just wide of the fielders to get a boundary. All this meant that the margin for error was minimal for the bowlers and once again it was Butt who made them pay. Bangladesh could have had him on 57 had Mortaza hung on to a difficult diving catch to his right at mid-off after the batsman had given Shakib Al Hasan the charge.
Younis was his usual busy self at the crease, pushing the singles, and the pair brought up the 50 stand in 49 balls. The introduction of the spinners did little to stem the run rate. Shakib and Abdur Razzak, the left-arm spinners, varied their lengths, pushing it in quicker, sometimes giving it more flight, but the lack of turn allowed the pair to get the singles. Younis brought up his half-century with a reverse-sweep and by then the pair had gone past Pakistan's highest second-wicket stand against Bangladesh, beating the 123 between Rameez Raja and Saeed Anwar in 1997.
Mohammad Ashraful decided to bring on his seamers in the middle overs and the move paid off when Younis fell to a miscued pull off Shahadat. Mohammad Yousuf joined Butt and the pair clattered 17 off one Shahadat over, before Butt finally fell to a well-judged catch at long-on by Shakib. With two centuries and as many 70-plus scores, Butt entered the record books by going past Javed Miandad for the most runs scored by a Pakistan batsman - 451- in any tournament or series.
Malik and Misbah-ul-Haq later added a breakneck 52 off just 5.4 overs to take Pakistan past 300. In the middle of the carnage, Mortaza managed 4 for 65, the only bright spot for the visitors.
Batting, however, didn't appear as easy under lights when Bangladesh took guard. Tamim Iqbal and Junaid Siddique faced some quality seam bowling from Asif and Umar Gul and the pair lacked the technical nous to see off the new ball and then attack. Shakib was squared up by a brute of a delivery which beat him for pace and shaved the top of the off stump. With that wicket, Bangladesh lost their in-form player and it was only a matter of time before the rest tumbled.
There were only two periods of resistance in the chase, though very contrasting in nature. Ashraful went on the attack in characteristic manner, peppering the on side with pulls and hoicks. Though not all came off the middle of the bat, it was entertaining all the same. The cameo knock of 30, off 26 balls, ended thanks to Misbah's quick reflexes at slip. A slow seventh-wicket stand of 57 between Mahmudullah and Dhiman Ghosh was never threatening, as it was only to prevent them from being rolled over quickly. Razzak then delayed the inevitable with some lusty blows before the chase ended in the 41st over. The Twenty20 international on Sunday gives Bangladesh the only chance to save face on this tour.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a staff writer at CricinfoFeeds: Kanishkaa Balachandran
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