A new-look Pakistan, led by a new-look Shahid Afridi, bowed out of the Asia Cup with little to boast about but with their reputations enhanced, while Bangladesh ended their campaign by reaffirming the gulf between them and the top-flight teams
A new-look Pakistan, led by a new-look Shahid Afridi, bowed out of the Asia Cup with little to boast about but with their reputations enhanced, while Bangladesh ended their campaign by reaffirming the gulf between them and the top-flight teams. Afridi unleashed the kind of fury he is famous for to launch Pakistan to their highest ODI score, and subsequently their first victory in 2010. Bangladesh, however, belied a complete lack of purpose in both innings, as the match meandered to the kind of denouement that has administrators concerned about the future of ODI cricket.
Bangladesh's spirit was snuffed in the first half when they were caught out without a plan by the Afridi redux - as aggressive as the marauder of old, but inventive and measured as well. These are early days yet, but captaincy is bringing out the best in Afridi. He has retained the willingness to attack but, entrusted with the responsibility of shepherding a young team, has weeded out the risks. Without having to heave across the line, at least until he gets set, Afridi once again showed he has the range to score at enviable pace.
Having collared Sri Lanka's attack in more trying conditions, Afridi barely broke a sweat today. With Umar Akmal already in the groove when he entered in the 29th over, Afridi worked the spinners around for a couple of overs. He flexed his muscles in the 32nd, lofting Suhrawadi Shuvo over long on for six and cashing in on the over-compensation by pulling for four. There were two strokes of luck soon after: an inside edge missed the stumps, and a skier was dropped by Mashrafe Mortaza. After that, however, Afridi unleashed and Pakistan accelerated at a ridiculous rate.
An extra-cover drive, a tickle and a whiplashed cut off Mortaza gave Bangladesh a trailer of what was to follow. After reaching his fifty in the 41st over, Afridi plundered 39 off 10 balls, with eight fours and a six, off Mahmudullah, Shakib Al Hasab and Shafiul Islam. The two batsmen had been tied on 41 at the end of the 39th over; five overs later, Umar had reached a steady fifty, while his captain was three short of a hundred. Umar departed in the 45th over, just before the batting Powerplay.
In the 46th, Afridi helped Razzak to fine leg to reach 100, off 53 balls, and in the same over he cut for four more before finishing with a loft over long on for his 271st six - the most by any batsman in ODI history. He smashed another length offering from Shafiul for No. 272 and stole one more four before his one-handed pull landed in the hands of square leg. Abdul Razzaq hustled 21 off nine balls, leaving the hapless Shafiul nursing figures of 3 for 95. The last ball of the innings was smeared over long off for six - Bangladesh had bled 120 runs in the last nine overs, and Pakistan had reached their highest ODI total, eclipsing a 13 year-old record, that was set up by - take a guess.
Before Afridi's assault, Pakistan's openers laid the foundation in more sober fashion. After spanking his second ball for a six over extra cover, Shahzaib Hasan served notice of both his strengths and intentions by repeatedly driving Mashrafe Mortaza on the up. Shahzaib rushed to his maiden ODI fifty before he fell trying to heave Abdur Razzak across the line in the 13th over, having dominated the opening stand of 81 in 12.3 overs.
With Shahzaib scoring freely, Imran Farhat had the breathing space to play out the seamers before settling in against spin. Having brought up his seventh ODI fifty, he succumbed to his own cheekiness, missing a late cut off Shakib. Bangladesh's spinners rallied in the period of play following the 25-over mark, culminating in Asad Shafiq's stumping in the 29th over. That was the Bangladesh captain's 100th ODI wicket, and it gave his side an outside chance to seize the initiative, but his opposite number upset his plans.
Bangladesh's batsmen, reeling from the carnage, focused on batting out fifty overs instead of taking a shot at the target. Their approach ensured there was no interest left in the second half of the contest. Imrul Kayes was the biggest culprit, dawdling around without any intent to score, while Tamim Iqbal showed characteristic spunk in taking on Mohammad Asif. He had driven, flicked and pulled him for fours before Asif struck with a slow and short off-cutter. With Tamim's dismissal, Bangladesh's hopes of making anything out of the game receded. In an inexplicable display that underlined the rift between Bangladesh and the rest, Kayes and Junaid Siddique settled in to accumulate. Despite cutting out all risks against a spirited but tired attack, neither of them could reach three-figures. Siddique eventually unfurled a few shots for the gallery, but no one was applauding.