Salman Butt and Kamran Akmal scored an identical 73 and also shared a breezy 141-run opening stand to guide defending champions Pakistan to a 21 run victory over Bangladesh in the opening Group A match of the Twenty20 cricket World Cup here today.

Pakistan rode on Butt ((73 off 46) and Akmal’s (73 off 55) top-order exploits to pile up a competitive 172 for three after skipper Shahid Afridi won the toss and elected to bat in the slow Beausejour Stadium wicket here.

Chasing the score, Bangladesh found themselves at the backfoot from the beginning, losing two early wickets but Mohammad Ashraful (65 off 49) and captain Shakib Al Hasan (47 off 31 ) kept them with a quickfire 63-ball 91-run third wicket partnership.

Stakes were high for Bangladeshi openers to give a flying start to their innings but the batters crumbled under pressure to finally end at 151 for seven from their 20 overs.

Comeback man Mohammad Sami was the pick of the Pakistani bowlers with three wickets for 29 runs while he was ably supported by pace partner Mohammad Aamer (2/16) from the other end.

Defending the total, young left-arm pacer Aamir gave Pakistan the breakthrough in the first over, getting the wicket of Imrul Kayes caught by Misbah.

Tamim Iqbal (19 off 18) too did not last long as he hit one straight back to off-spinner Mohammad Hafeez off his own bowling.

Ashraful and Shakib played sensibly with occasional hits to the fence to keep Bangladesh in the hunt.

But it was not be their day as needing approximately 10 an over, both Ashraful and Shakib gave away their wickets in search of quick runs to eventually fell short by 21 runs.

Neeeding 53 of the last five overs, a tired Shakib was caught at long off by Umar Akmal off Mohammad Sami and then Aamer dig the final nail in Bangladesh’s coffin, getting dangerman Ashraful caught behind.

Earlier, Butt and Akmal showed their intentions clear from the onset and used their long handle to great affect to find fours and sixes at will to lay the foundation for the huge total.

Shakib was the pick of the Bangladeshi bowlers with figures of two for 27 while pacer Safiul Islam accounted for one victim, giving away 25 runs off his four overs.

Sent into field, Bangladesh’s plan to approach the match with five specialised spinners backfired as not a single bowler got reprieve from Butt and Akmal’s onslaught as Pakistan notched up the highest total of the tournament so far, that too in a slow Beausejour Stadium pitch.

Both Butt and Akmal were at their destructive best as they hit as many as 16 fours and three sixes between them.

The left-hander was the aggressive among the two as he accounted for eight boundaries and two sixes. Akmal too matched his partner stroke by stroke as he hit equal number fours but only had six to his credit.

With Pakistan’s hammering showing no signs of relenting, Bangladesh skipper Shakib—ul Hasan came up double strike to somewhat put the brakes on the run flow.

Shakib broke the opening partnership against the run of the mill when he had Akmal caught off a full toss by Abdur Razaq, but not before the Pakistani wicketkeeper notched up his career—best Twenty20 score.

The left-arm spinner then got the better of Shahid Afridi (9) as the Pakistan captain ballooned another full toss straight to Mahmudullah at short third-man.

Butt too persished soon in search of quick runs in the with Shafiul disturbing his timbers.

Abdul Razzaq (6 off 5) and Misbah-ul-Haq (8 off 5) remained as the two unbeaten batsmen for Pakistan.

Brief Scores:

Pakistan: 173 for three in 20 overs (Salman Butt 73, Kamran Akmal 73; Shakib Al Hasan 2/27).

Bangladesh: 151 for seven in 20 overs (Mohammad Ashraful 65, Shakib Al Hasan 47; Mohammad Sami 3/29, Mohammad Aamer 2/16).

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