Mirpur: Bangladesh produced a fine bowling display before a late burst propelled Pakistan to 236 for nine in the final of the Asia Cup cricket tournament, here today.
After recording two upsets in the form India and Sri Lanka already in the event, giant-killers Bangladesh are in with a golden opportunity to create history by halting Pakistan within a reachable target.
But if not for some lacklustre bowling by Shahdat Hossain towards the end and useful contributions from Shahid Afridi (32) and wicket-keeper Sarfaraz Ahmed (46 not out), the target could have been much lower for Bangladesh.
Shahdat gave away 19 runs in the final over of the innings and was guilty of bowling two no-balls, which not only boosted Pakistan’s score but also their confidence.
Young Sarfaraz top-scored for Pakistan with an unbeaten 46, while Shahid Afridi played a 22-ball 32-run cameo to wriggle Pakistan out of trouble.
Mohammad Hafeez (40), Umar Akmal (30) and Hammad Azam (30) all failed to capitalise on good starts.
For Bangaldesh, experienced pacer Mashrafe Mortaza (2/48)), and spin duo of Abdur Razak (2/26) and Shakib Al Hasan (2/39) scalped two wickets apiece, while Nazmul Hossain (1/36) and Mahmudullah (1/14) picked up one each. Shahdat conceded 63 runs off his nine overs.
Backed by a partisan home crowd, Bangladesh made a dream start to their maiden Asia Cup title quest by striking early blows after inviting Pakistan to bat.
Experienced pacer Mortaza and his new-ball partner Nazmul picked up wicket apiece in consecutive overs to reduce Pakistan to 19 for two in 5.2 overs.
Left-handed opener Nasir Jamshed was the first Pakistani batsman to depart in the fifth over, handing a simple catch to Mahmudullah at cover of a slower delivery from Mortaza while trying to clear the in-field.
Five deliveries later, it turned out to be double celebrations for Bangladesh when Nazmul trapped veteran Younis Khan plumb in-front of the wicket.
Hafeez and captain Misbah-ul-Haq (13) tried to ressurect the innings with a 31-run stand before the latter perished in search of a tight single.
A brilliant Nazmul caught Misbah short of the crease at the non-striker’s end with a direct throw after the batsman hesitated in starting off the blocks for the single.
To make matters worse for Pakistan, Hafeez, who got a reprieve on seven, failed to capitalise on the chance after doing all the hardwork and fell on 10 runs short of his fifty.
Hafeez was caught by Nazmul off Abdur Razzak at mid-on as he
tried to break the shackles.
With Pakistan in shambles at 70 for four, Umar Akmal and Hammad Azam joined hands and did a small recovery act, stitching 59 runs before two more quick wickets spoiled their hardwork.
Both Akmal and Azam gave away their wickets after scoring identical 30s.
Akmal played the role of a sheet-anchor and scored his runs off 45 balls with the help of just one six, while Azam tried his luck and clobbered three boundaries and a six during his 37-ball stay.
Reduced to 133 for six, Afridi played a cameo and together with wicket-keeper Sarfaraz Ahmed added 45-runs in just 44 balls to stretch Pakistan’s struggling innings.
Afridi managed 32 off 22 balls and hit four boundaries and six before miscuing a full toss off Shakib which a diving Nasir Hossain glefully accepted.
After Afridi’s dismissal, Sarfaraz took the responsibility on his shoulders and kept Pakistan’s innings afloat even as wickets kept tumbling at the other end.