Shehzad and Fawad also star in team’s record chase; India’s slim hope vanishes

There was an all-consuming insanity that swept across the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium on a feverish Tuesday night.

In a contest that began as a hit-a-thon and ended as a whodunit, Pakistan waylaid Bangladesh by three wickets with a ball to spare. Pakistan, having accomplished its biggest chase in ODIs, will now meet Sri Lanka in the final of the Asia Cup.

While the result left many a Bangladesh supporter teary-eyed, it had a knock-on effect across the border, too, as India’s chances of entering the final were scuttled.

Set a target of 327, Pakistan’s cause was firmed up by a clutch of heroes; Ahmed Shehzad composed the opening lines with a century and the mid-innings melody was rendered by Fawad Alam. Shehzad was ever the stylist even as comeback-man Alam, despite his ungainly ways, splendidly shifted gears.

But, man-of-the-match Shahid Afridi’s slapdash at the end — a brutal encore of his innings against India — had the most terrifying tenor. Coming out to the centre with Pakistan requiring 102 off 52 balls, Afridi went about his business with practised flourish. In the 43rd over, he hit Shakib Al Hasan for three sixes. Soon, he brought up his half-century off 18 balls.

Bangladesh must have been relieved to run Afridi out not long after its captain Mushfiqur Rahim dropped him in the 47th over, but that wouldn’t alter the final outcome.

Earlier, electing to bat, Bangladesh nearly created the perfect storm. Opener Anamul Haque scored a fine century, while Mushfiqur and Shakib came up with late-order blasts. Also, after bowling well for the most part, Bangladesh lost the plot in the climax.

When Bangladesh’s openers scratched out their guards, attritional, scrappy scoring to nudge the total to 250 or 260 was anticipated.

But, Anamul and Imrul Kayes, one of the five changes that Bangladesh made, escaped such set-pieces and initiated a full-frontal assault. It was a different wicket — more even-paced — when compared with the ones on which the last two games were played. Anamul and Kayes raised their 150-run partnership off 172 balls. It was Bangladesh’s most successful opening stand for some time now.

Lucky

There was also an early injection of luck as Kayes was dropped on zero by Shehzad at first slip in the very first over bowled by Mohammad Hafeez. Therafter, like uncollected baggage on carousel,identically-hewn strokes kept repeating themselves.

Although the left-handed Kayes favoured the slaughterous slash, there were also the lilting pick-up strokes over mid-wicket that had the imprint of a Saeed Anwar special. Anamul showed his proclivity for the mesmeric drive as also the thumping pull.

Kayes received another reprieve, off Hafeez’s bowling again, when umpire Johan Cloete turned down an appeal for ‘lbw’. The 11th over threw up an incident that would rank right up there with the most bizarre cricketing moments.

Left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman, replacing Junaid Khan in the eleven, bowled three consecutive full-tosses above the waist, and was removed from the attack. His figures were an unprecedented 0-0-8-0. The 21-year-old Anamul wouldn’t have a bar of such distraction, ripping into Mohammad Talha like a starving wolf.

Once Kayes was excised, Mominul Haque ensured that the momentum didn’t sag. Mushfiqur and Shakib complied with the trend, too, precluding any possibility of a Pakistani comeback.

Mushiqur’s hits were almost Jaywardene-esque; he leveraged the crease’s depth to send scything drives through covers. There was also Shakib, who, after watching his team’s dismal loss against Afghanistan from the stands, made the much-awaited return from his three-match ban. And return he did with rage-filled rush.

The 26-year-old either dashed down the crease or shuffled vigorously. In either event, he lapped, smote, and smashed the ball to the fence and beyond. Barring Hafeez and Saeed Ajmal, Pakistani’s bowlers were profligate. The last 10 overs reaped 121, leaving Bangladesh elated at the break. By the end of the night, it would find itself on the other end of the emotional spectrum.

Scoreboard

Bangladesh: Anamul Haque c Shehzad b Ajmal 100 (132b, 6x4, 4x6), Imrul Kayes c Akmal b Talha 59 (75b, 5x4, 2x6), Mominul Haque c Hafeez b Ajmal 51 (47b, 6x4), Mushfiqur Rahim (not out) 51 (33b, 8x4), Shakib Al Hasan (not out) 44 (16b, 6x4, 2x6); Extras (lb-3, w-15, nb-3): 21; Total (for three wkts. in 50 overs): 326.

Fall of wickets: 1-150 (Kayes), 2-204 (Anamul), 3-249 (Mominul).

Pakistan bowling: Hafeez 10-0-27-0, Gul 10-1-76-0, Rehman 0-0-8-0, Fawad 2-0-12-0, Talha 7-0-68-1, Ajmal 10-0-61-2, Afridi 10-0-64-0, Maqsood 1-0-7-0.

Pakistan: Ahmed Shehzad b Razzak 103 (123b, 12x4, 1x6), Mohammed Hafeez c Kayes b Mominul 52 (55b, 8x4), Misbah-ul-Haq b Shakib 4 (4b, 1x4), Sohaib Maqsood c Anamul b Mominul 2 (5b), Fawad Alam run-out 74 (70b, 4x4, 2x6), Abdur Rehman c Ziaur b Mahmudullah 8 (8b), Shahid Afridi run out 59 (25b, 2x4, 7x6), Umar Akmal (not out) 14 (9b, 2x4), Umar Gul (not out) 0 (0b); Extras (b-1, lb-3, w-9): 13: Total (for seven wkts. in 49.5 overs): 329.Fall of wickets: 1-97 (Hafeez), 2-102 (Misbah), 3-105 (Maqsood), 4-210 (Shehzad), 5-225 (Rehman), 6-294 (Afridi), 7-325 (Fawad).

Bangladesh bowling: Shafiul 5-0-49-0, Al-Amin 6.5-0-50-0, Shakib 10-2-53-1, Razzak 9-0-72-1, Mominul 9-1-37-2, Mahmudullah 7-1-47-1,Nasir 3-0-17-0.

Man-of-the-match: Shahid Afridi.

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