Mushfiqur's men come up short after a determined and gallant effort; Hafeez named man-of-the-match
Mohammad Hafeez laid the ghosts of the past month to rest on a warm Sunday night at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium though Bangladesh briefly threatened to upset Pakistan in the Asia Cup's opening match.
During Pakistan's tame show against England in the limited-overs jousts (ODI and Twenty20) at the United Arab Emirates, Hafeez failed in his twin roles of batting and off-spin. In seven games, he tallied 84 runs and got three wickets.
Man of the hour
On a day, when the game alternated between its phases of free-fall and fluid shots, Hafeez's 89 and two wickets, proved crucial and helped Pakistan snatch a 21-run victory over the host while Shakib Al Hasan's resilience (64, 66b, 4x4) offered futile hopes to the local fans. Pakistan scored 262 for eight and bowled out Bangladesh for 241.
Bangladesh was in with a sniff when 68 runs were required in the last ten overs while Shakib and Nasir Hossain seemed at ease. Nasir clattered a six off Saeed Ajmal and when Umar Gul angled a delivery in to his ribs, the riposte was a whip down fine-leg.
Meanwhile Shakib in his calm ways, exhaled with delicate strokes against Ajmal and Aizaz Cheema. The script changed when Gul cleaned up Nasir in the 44th over and the tail proved inept against Ajmal.
The pursuit had commenced when Misbah-ul-Haq's gambit of opening his attack with Hafeez and Gul failed to unsettle the Bangladesh openers Tamim Iqbal (64, 89b, 6x4, 1x6) and Mohammad Nazimuddin.
Tamim looked at ease despite the dilly-dallying over his inclusion in the squad ahead of the tournament. He cut Hafeez while Nazimuddin flicked Gul for a six over backward square-leg.
Nazimuddin however perished with a hoick against Cheema but Tamim continued unhindered. Ajmal was greeted with a six and later when Gul returned for the second spell, a cover drive was essayed with finesse.
The fifty was registered but his exaggerated celebration triggered the fear that he may be satiated with the effort while Bangladesh still needed to score at six an over.
The apprehensions were not unfounded as he tried to cut Hafeez when the delivery hardly offered width.
In between the hope and pathos of Tamim's knock, Shahid Afridi had rattled the timber twice with Jahurul Islam and Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim being the befuddled victims.
Tightening its hold
Pakistan tightened its hold when Hafeez immediately prised out Mahmudullah and though the visitor's grip slackened when Shakib threaded his runs, hierarchy was eventually restored.
Earlier, Pakistan frittered away the fine start crafted by openers Hafeez (89, 126b, 7x4) and Nasir Jamshed (54, 64b, 5x4, 1x6) before Gul lashed crucial runs in the slog.
After Mushfiqur opted to field, Hafeez and Nasir bided their time in the first ten overs that yielded 36.
However signs of comfort were visible in the way Hafeez leant in to his drives and Nasir picked his spots in the on-side against the seamers.
Hafeez did struggle when his penchant to lunge forward proved cumbersome against Shakib. An inner edge off the left-arm spinner narrowly missed the stumps but Hafeez hung in and swatted Abdur Razzak while Nasir carved Shakib for a six.
The openers added 135 runs over 167 deliveries and then Pakistan suffered its first breach. Hafeez pushed Razzak to point and Nasir hustled him into a precarious single.
Shakib's throw left Nasir stranded and that led to a strange passage of play in which Misbah's men lost their heads with poor shot-selection.
Younis Khan closed the bat face a touch too early against Shahadat Hossain and spooned a catch.
And from 162 for two in 32.5 overs, Pakistan began to implode. Shahadat Hossain banged it short, Hafeez miscued a pull and similar across-the-line shots marred the innings.
The batting Power Play (overs 36 to 40) undid the visitor with 22 runs coming at a cost of three wickets and overall Pakistan lost six batsmen while moving from 162 to 198.
Asad Shafiq pulled without conviction, Umar Akmal perished with the slog-sweep, Shahid Afridi lobbed his first delivery back to a juggling Shakib and Misbah misread Razzak.
Gul (39) then stepped in with his hefty strikes against Mortaza, who finally scalped his tormentor. In the end, Gul's effort proved equally critical for Pakistan.
Pakistan: Md. Hafeez c Shafiq b Shahadat 89 (126b, 7x4), N. Jamshed (run out) 54 (64b, 5x4, 1x6), Younis c Razzak b Shahadat 12 (15b, 1x4), U. Akmal c Razzak b Shakib 21 (20b, 2x4), A. Shafiq c Mortaza b Shahadat 4 (6b), Misbah b Razzak 8 (13b), S. Afridi c & b Shakib 0 (1b), Sarfraz (not out) 19 (28b), U. Gul b Mortaza 39 (25b, 5x4, 1x6), S. Ajmal (not out) 8 (3b, 1x4); Extras (lb-2, w-5, nb-1): 8; Total (for eight wkts. in 50 overs): 262.
Power Plays: One (Overs 1-10): 36/0; Bowling (16-20): 37/0; Batting (36-40): 22/3.
Fall of wickets: 1-135 (Jamshed), 2-162 (Younis), 3-169 (Hafeez), 4-175 (Shafiq), 5-192 (Akmal), 6-193 (Afridi), 7-198 (Misbah), 8-251 (Gul).
Bangladesh bowling: Mortaza 10-0-55-1, Shafiul 8-0-49-0, Shakib 10-0-41-2, Shahadat 8-0-53-3, Razzak 10-0-43-1, Mahmudullah 4-0-19-0.
Bangladesh: Tamim Iqbal b Hafeez 64 (89b, 6x4, 1x6), Md. Nazimuddin c Gul b Cheema 30 (33b, 4x4, 1x6), Jahurul Islam b Afridi 23 (31b, 3x4), M. Rahim b Afridi 3 (5b), Shakib b Gul 64 (66b, 4x4), Mahmudullah lbw b Hafeez 0 (1b), Nasir b Gul 47 (49b, 3x4, 1x6), A. Razzak b Ajmal 1 (3b), M. Mortaza b Ajmal 1 (3b), Shafiul Islam lbw b Gul 1 (2b), Shahadat (not out) 0 (7b); Extras (lb-2, w-5): 7; Total (in 48.1 overs): 241.
Power Plays: One (Overs 1-10): 43/0; Bowling (16-20): 22/0; Batting (36-40): 36/0.
Fall of wickets: 1-45 (Nazimuddin), 2-90 (Jahurul), 3-100 (Rahim), 4-135 (Tamim), 5-135 (Mahmudullah), 6-224 (Nasir), 7-228 (Razzak), 8-230 (Mortaza), 9-235 (Shafiul).
Pakistan bowling: Hafeez 10-1-40-2, Gul 9.1-0-58-3, Ajmal 10-0-45-2, Cheema 9-0-47-1, Afridi 10-0-49-2.
Man-of-the-match: Mohd. Hafeez.