A partisan crowd celebrated his dismissal. Unfortunately, not a single clap was reserved for Shahid Afridi. In the mass hysteria, the fans forgot how privileged they were to be present at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium here on Tuesday to witness an Afridi special.
Afridi left the field grimacing in pain. He had scored 59 off just 25 balls, hit seven sixes and turned the game around. His dismissal was because of his sore hamstring that hampered his running between the wickets. He did push hard after placing an Al-Amin Hossain delivery to mid-on but he never seemed like making it to the other end. Shakib Al Hasan hit the stumps with a direct throw. Afridi was run out and the stands were alive again.
But the target by now was within Pakistan’s reach. Fawad Alam, who made 74, did get out with just two balls to go but it didn’t matter. Needing two runs to win, Umar Akmal found the gap along the mid-wicket boundary to ensure Pakistan chased down 327 for victory — their highest successful chase ever — with one ball to spare and reach the Asia Cup final.
Earlier, Afridi had arrived when the chips were down. A mindless promotion of Abdur Rehman as a slogger had made his job difficult. Pakistan were staring at a 10-plus asking rate. The equation – 102 more runs in 52 balls – was challenging. When Afridi marked his guard, spinner Mahmudullah was bowling.
The first ball, Afridi faced, went over the long-on boundary. The next was placed to deep-square leg for a couple. This was followed by another six. A single off the final ball of the over kept Afridi on strike.
In the zone
Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim turned to his best bowler Shakib. But Afridi was in the zone as he hit three more sixes in that Shakib over. By the end of the over he had played just 10 balls and raced to 35.
His half-century came in just 18 balls and then Afridi momentarily lost steam. He was dropped on 51 by Mushfiqur Rahim. Eight runs later Afridi departed but the damage had been done and Bangladesh were rattled.
“This has to be one of the best ODI knocks ever. But I would say a combined batting effort won us the game.
Ahmed) Shehzad scored a century. Fawad Alam stayed till the end. Umar Akmal also contributed,” Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq said.
His Bangladesh counterpart admitted that he ran out of options. “When a batsman plays such an innings, bowlers run out of options. You can just hope that he misses one. Today Afridi connected everything,” said Rahim.
Pakistan’s win also broke their sequence of 12 losses in a row, while chasing the scores of 250-plus. Misbah was right when he said that it was a team batting effort after giving due credit to Afridi’s knock.
Opener Ahmed Shehzad scored his fifth ODI hundred, while Mohammad Hafeez made 52. Together, they added 97 runs for the first wicket. Alam held the innings in the middle with a very calculated 70-ball 74. Akmal, who was held back in the order, provided the finishing touches with a boundary in the fifth ball of the final over.
Heads held high
Bangladesh were defeated but not disgraced. They reached their highest ever ODI total (326/3), thanks to a late blitz, during which they scored 104 runs in the last eight overs. They made five changes to their XI following the loss against Afghanistan and looked determined to make amends.
Anamul Haque scored a very polished century, Imrul Kayes, Mominul Haque and Mushfiqur Rahim – all scored half-centuries and Shakib, who returned after a three-game ban, remained unbeaten on 44 off 16 balls.
The Pakistan bowlers were off-colour. Left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman, who was drafted into the squad, was barred by the umpires after bowling three waist-high full tosses in his first over. In the end, he, however, could smile as Afridi saved the day.
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