At the halfway stage, Bangladesh had erected their highest ODI total, and were on a high after lashing 121 runs in the final 10 overs. Their bowling, however, brought them back to earth as everything came undone in the face of a Shahid Afridi onslaught.
The required run-rate was a shade under 11 when the final 10 overs began. Mushfiqur Rahim had banked on his spinners to coax it upward but Mahmudullah leaked 16 in the 42nd over and Shakib Al Hasan, their best bowler, was flayed for three sixes in the 43rd. The switch to pace proved just as disastrous as Shafiul Islam was carved for 16 in the 45th. Abdur Razzak's experience proved for little as he was slogged for 18 in the 48th. And by now Pakistan's equation was a very manageable 13 off 12 balls.
The loss hid vital improvements in Bangladesh's batting performance, none more pleasing than Anamul Haque's second ODI century which formed the bulk of a 150-run opening stand with Imrul Kayes. That platform allowed Mominul Haque, Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib to rake in 121 runs in the last ten overs.
Imrul was one of five changes in the Bangladesh XI and the experiment almost backfired in the very first over, but Ahmed Shehzad spilled one at slip. With that slice of good fortune, Imrul constructed a busy half-century when he was constantly on the lookout for runs, whether through boundaries square on the off side or through ones and twos. He has looked an improved batsman since the Chittagong Test against Sri Lanka and was a key component of Bangladesh establishing their second highest opening partnership, and their first since the Kayes-Shahriar Nafees stand against New Zealand in 2010.
Anamul caught up as he began finding the boundaries with greater frequency and was once again severe on the opposition's fastest bowler. Mohammad Talha, like Varun Aaron, was handled with disdain as Anamul collected 31 runs off 19 balls, including three fours and two sixes. But one area where he needs serious work is his consistency. He made a fifty against India, missed out against Afghanistan but again played well against Pakistan, a syndrome that has followed him from the Sri Lanka ODIs earlier last month.
Mominul has also developed a recent habit of succumbing after being well-set, although on Tuesday he lost his wicket in the search for quick runs. His timing has been brilliant since the New Zealand series and came in handy as Bangladesh made healthy progress in the middle overs. By the time he was dismissed at 204 for 2, the team was in their best position after the fall of two wickets since 1999.
Mushfiqur and Anamul kept the trend going, taking Bangladesh to their best position for the loss of three wickets. Then Shakib joined his captain, and the pair added 77 runs for the unbroken fourth wicket partnership, at a dizzy 13.58 per over to record the fastest 50-plus Bangladesh partnership ever.
Bangladesh's defence began well in the early overs, but they could not prevent a 97-run stand for the opening wicket between Shehzad and Mohammad Hafeez, a best for Pakistan in the last 12 months.
Shehzad added another 105 runs with Fawad Alam for the fourth wicket, even more crucial given that it came after the loss of Hafeez, Misbah-ul-Haq and Sohaib Maqsood for just eight runs. That set things up for Afridi as he and Alam carved 69 runs for the sixth wicket - their fastest partnership in the last three years. On the all-time list, this was the eighth fastest 50-plus stand for the team.
When Afridi struck five sixes in quick succession, the Bangladesh bowlers slumped to new lows. The batsmen, however, have showed desire, particularly Anamul whose progress has been significant since a lacklustre series against New Zealand. If Bangladesh are to break their 2014 duck in the next match against Sri Lanka, the team would expect exactly this approach from the batsmen, and hope the bowlers offer better assistance.