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Pakistan managed to outlast a valiant Bangladesh fight back to claim victory in the first ODI of the Asia cup at Mirpur.
Bangladesh, who were hoping to gain some payback against Pakistan after their horrid series lost against them in December 2011, came up just short of surprising Pakistan, who have been playing some their best cricket in quite some time.
Pakistan Captain, Misbah-ul-Haq feels as if the batsmen need to do more to support their bowlers, who, according to ul-Haq have been carrying the team recently. “The bowlers are winning games for us for the last year and a half, but we need to support them” he said.
Bangladesh Captain Mushfiqur Rahim won the toss and elected to bowl first due to the freshness of the pitch, which was why he had chosen three pace bowlers.
Rahim, may have wanted to rethink his decision with the way the Pakistan openers, Mohammad Hafeez and Nasir Jamshed, seemed to be in control of the Bangladesh bowling lineup.
Hafeez and Jamshed dispatched anything short of a length as Pakistan rocketed past the hundred mark without any trouble whatsoever.
However, just as Pakistan seemed to be stepping their game up another gear, Bangladesh caught a break and removed Jamshed, who played a fine innings of 54. He and Hafeez put Pakistan in a dominant position with their 135 run opening partnership.
However, with the departure of Jamshed, the rest of the Pakistan batsmen just seemed dazed and confused by the Bangladesh bowling attack, as wicket after wicket fell, much to the delight of the home fans.
Hafeez, sensing Pakistan were heading into a freefall, tried his best to rescue his team, but, to no avail, as he perished on a brilliant knock of 89.
Hafeez, who was awarded the Man of the Match for his all round performance, said: “”I was not having a great time in the last series, very happy with this. I worked with my batting coach, I was just thinking of spending more time at the crease.”
With the unbelievable collapse of the middle and most of the lower order batsmen, Umar Gul stepped up and started a little firework display of his own, smashing 39 runs off 25 deliveries, including five boundaries and a huge six to top it all off. This effort contributed heavily to the 53 run partnership he put together with wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed.
Gul’s hugely valuable contribution gave Pakistan a fighting total of 268.
Bangladesh’s Shahadot Hossain claimed three wickets, while Shakib Al Hasan picked up two of his own, to somewhat stop Pakistan from posting a more formidable total.
Facing a target of 269 to win, Bangladesh made a solid start, but, with Pakistan picking up wickets regularly, the game looked to be anyone’s for the taking.
Opener Tamim Iqbal helped Bangladesh’s cause for victory with a beautiful innings of 64, before he was knocked over.
After Iqbal departed, things started to look grim for Bangladesh. With wickets constantly falling, Shakib Al Hasan and Nasir Hossain, mounted one final attempt at a miraculous comeback, as the pair put together a much-needed partnership of 89, before Hossian departed, falling just three runs shy of his half century.
Al Hasan, meanwhile, was having problems of his own, as he watched partner after partner dismissed back to the pavilion. He tried his best to get Bangladesh as close as possible to the target, hitting boundary after boundary and trying to keep most of the strike to avoid anymore of his partners getting out.
With 22 runs needed off the last two overs, Al Hasan decided that it was time to go big or get out, which was exactly what happened on the first ball of the second last over, where he tried to heave the ball over the top and ended up getting bowled all round his legs on 64, giving Pakistan their first win of the Asia Cup by 21 runs.
Umar Gul, who bowled brilliantly towards the end of the match, led the charge for the Pakistan bowlers, racking up three wickets, but, he was supported by his teammates, Mohammad Hafeez, Saeed Ajmal and Shahid Afridi, who all took two wickets each.
Bangladesh Captain, Mushfiqur Rahim, was frustrated with the loss. “We were really close, I thought we came back well in our bowling. Our batsmen did a good job at the start, the most important was Nasir’s wicket at the end. We just couldn’t finish well. We are not winning most of the times after getting into such situations” he said.
Captain Misbah-ul-Haq, on the other hand, was happy to get off to a winning start, but stated that there were a lot of improvements that needed to be made. “it was tough, we should have got 300. Again, we just messed it up. The guys are not learning from their mistakes. The pitch was absolutely perfect for batting, no spin, nothing for the fast bowlers but again the bowlers did good for us. We just have to lift our performances, we need to be more positive and we can’t just repeat these mistakes” he said.
With Pakistan winning their first match, they will look to continue their dominance when they take on Sri Lanka, while Bangladesh hope to upset India.
However, both teams will get a short break as India and Sri Lanka, fresh off the Commonwealth Bank series, battle against each other on the 13th of March at Dhaka.