Early in the Bangladesh innings, the Australian team settled down on a row of seats next to the Bangladesh dug-out. George Bailey’s side were to play the night match against India; a match they desperately needed to win to stay alive in the tournament. But for the night match to retain its importance for Australia, Bangladesh first needed to beat Pakistan and do Bailey’s side a favour.
By reaching 30 without loss within the first five overs versus Pakistan, Bangladesh got off to a start steady enough to keep their fans and the Aussies interested.
A glance at the digital scorecard at the stadium even before Bangladesh came out to bat would have summed up the challenge the hosts faced. Pakistan had scored 190, a tough chase for any side. Even tougher for a side that had lost to Hong Kong during the qualifiers. For a Bangladesh batting unit, which hasn’t looked convincing, this was a mountain.
Ahmed Shehzad had made an unbeaten 111 off 62, an innings that had to be topped by one if not more than one Bangladesh batsman. That didn’t happen of course. Let alone doing a Shehzad, all of Bangladesh put together scored 29 runs more than Pakistan’s top scorer. Only Shakib Al Hasan’s contribution of 38 stood out as the hosts lost their fourth match in a row, this time by 50 runs. The result meant that the Pakistan-West Indies game on Tuesday has become a virtual quarterfinal, with the winners set to joing India in the semi-finals.
Writing on the wall
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The writing was on the wall was clear once Shehzad got going at the very top of the Pakistan batting order. On Sunday, he batted confidently during an unbeaten outing, which made him the first Pakistani to score a Twenty20 International century.
In spite of the smaller boundaries, heavier bats and field restrictions, there have been only 11 centuries by 10 different batsmen (NZ’s Brendon McCullum has two) in the shortest format. Shehzad would have joined the club last year but he fell two runs short in that innings against Zimbabwe.
Even after accounting for a Bangladesh attack that has looked listless, Shehzad’s century was special because he didn’t offer a chance. Shehzad also did what all top batsmen do when they are dominating an innings — target the opposition’s strike bowler. Mashrafe Mortaza may be as effective as the spinners on the slower wickets here, but even the medium-pacer would not have imagined that he would end the day with the worst-ever figures for a bowler in T20Is, 0/63. Shehzad scored 39 off 16 of Mortaza’s deliveries. Eighteen of these runs were scored in the third over of the innings as Shezhad hit Mortaza for three fours and a six. Shehzad’s imperious batting helped Pakistan tide over the loss of captain Mohammad Hafeez and Umar Akmal within four balls of each other.
The highlight of Bangladesh’s faltering innings for the home fans were the four sixes, two by Shakib and one each from Nasir Hossain and Mahmudullah. On every occasion the ball soared into the stands, the rafters erupted. The irony would not have been lost on the Australians.