Shahid Afridi produced a blazing knock of 49 runs to take Pakistan to a daunting total of 201/5 in their opening World T20 match today. He then returned to take two wickets with the ball as Pakistan restricted Bangladesh to 146/6, to grab an impressive 55-run win at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
Chasing a mammoth target of 202, Bangladesh got off to a poor start as Mohammad Amir worked his magic once again. The left arm pacer sent Soumya Sarkar's off-stump for a cartwheel after beating the southpaw with his pace. Sarkar was rooted to his crease as Amir spread his wings to celebrate the breakthrough.
Tamim Iqbal and Sabbir Rahman took responsibility and played sensible cricket after the early blow. The duo dealt in singles as they saw off the new ball bowlers, and refrained themselves from taking any undue risk.
Shabbir welcomed Pakistan's quickest bowler Wahab Riaz to the crease by slapping him through the cover boundary, while Tamim Iqbal finally showed some attacking intent by pulling Shahid Afridi into the stands. However, it was the Pakistani skipper's day, and he could do no wrong. The leg spinner dismissed both Tamim and Shabbir in quick successions and Bangladesh were tottering at 58/3 by the end of the eighth over.
Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim stopped the flow of wickets and brought some respectability to the scoreline with a 39-run partnership, before Amir removed the later with a beautifully disguised slower delivery.
The Bangladeshi captain showed some resistance and fought a lone battle towards the end of the innings, however, he did not find any support at the other end. The asking rate kept climbing, till the outcome of the match became a formality. In the end, Pakistan produced an impressive all-round performance to make a winning start to their campaign, and they will now carry this confidence into the much awaited game against India on March 19.
Earlier today, Shahid Afridi won the toss and opted to bat first, on a dry track which had isolated green spots. Both the teams made one change each to their lineups – Ahmed Shehzad and Arafat Sunny were brought in by Pakistan and Bangladesh respectively.
Pakistan were off to a flying start in the match as Sharjeel Khan took Al-Amin Hossain to the cleaners in the second over of the match. He cleared the boundary twice – one over the fine leg with a pull shot, and the other down the ground – as Al-Amin conceded 18 runs in that over.
Shakib Al Hasan brought on left arm spinner Arafat Sunny in the third over, and the 29-year-old gave Bangladesh the break through they were desperately looking for. Sunny dislodged Sharjeel's off-stump after beating him in the flight. The batsman came charging down the track and Sunny fired in a quicker delivery which cramped Sharjeel for room, and grazed his off-stump after beating the bat.
However, the wicket did not bring any respite to Bangladesh as Mohammad Hafez and Ahmed Shehzad carried on the momentum generated by Sharjeel. The duo put on 95 runs in 68 balls as Shakib Al Hasan was left short on ideas to stop the flow of runs. Shehzad was the first to complete his half century, in the 13th over, with a deft flick off his pads to the square leg – which was in stark contrast to the eight boundaries he had bludgeoned before that.
He was dismissed in the next over though, after he was caught in the midwicket boundary by Mahmudullah, while trying to hit Sabbir Rahman out of the park. However, at 121/2, he left Pakistan the perfect platform to accelerate in the final seven overs of the game.
Shahid Afridi promoted himself up the order, ahead of Umar Akmal and Shoaib Malik, and it turned out to be a masterstroke by the Pakistani skipper. Hafeez and Afridi took apart the Bangladeshi bowlers with powerful stroke play and put together a quick-fire partnership of 42 runs, from just 17 balls.
After Hafeez completed his half-century in the 15th over, Afridi went berserk at the other end. The 36-year-old showed why he is still one of the most destructive batsman in this format of the game, when on song, as he blasted two fours and a huge six off Mashrafe Mortaza in three consecutive deliveries. In the following over, Hafeez took apart Al-Amin, before Afridi ended the over by sending another one in the stands.
Sunny removed Hafeez in the 17th over, courtesy of a brilliant catch by Soumya Sarkar at the midwicket boundary. The Pakistani batsman made good connection with the ball, and it looked like Sarkar's momentum will take him over the ropes in his attempt to catch the ball. However, the fielder threw the ball up in the air, crossed the ropes, came back in and grabbed it in his second attempt to complete one of the best catches of the tournament so far.
Afridi's blazing knock of 49 runs, off 19 balls, helped Pakistan reach a daunting total of 201 runs, and it was a shame that the enigmatic batsman fell just short of what was a well-deserved half-century.
Lasith Malinga or Bhuvneshwar Kumar? Who will take more wickets?
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