Despite poor bowling effort, Pakistan cruises into Super Eights on the back of spectacular batting performance
Pakistan’s batting more than made up for a thoroughly disappointing show on the field, as it put Bangladesh’s attack to the sword and charged headlong to an eight-wicket win that booked a place in the Super Eights. Imran Nazir clobbered the fastest half-century of the ICC World Twenty20 2012, and was calmly abetted by Mohammad Hafeez, as Pakistan ensured that Bangladesh could not pull off an upset.
Faced with a dual target – Pakistan needed 176 for victory but only 140 to qualify for the Super Eights – Nazir and Hafeez made calculators and statisticians redundant during a first-wicket stand that broke the back of Bangladesh’s bowlers. Not learning a thing from the first half of the game, Mashrafe Mortaza and Shafiul Islam tried to bounce the openers out. Nazir greeted this form of attack with panache, picking the length early and pulling with ferocity.
When Hafeez realised that it was Nazir’s day, he gladly played second fiddle, feeding the strike to Nazir and watching as he powered his team to a total of 64 off the PowerPlay overs. When Mushfiqur Rahim switched to spin to stem the rot, Nazir was already in full cry, and even the smallest error in length was brutally punished.
Shakib Al Hasan learnt the hard way as he dropped one short and Nazir rocked on to the back foot in a flash to pull the ball deep into the stands. When Nazir brought up his half-century, off only 25 balls, the game was already as good as in the bag. But, after celebrating the end of a dry spell with much relief, Nazir knuckled down.
It was only in the 14th over of the innings, with 124 on the board, that Bangladesh managed to separate the openers, as Nazir (72) flat-batted Abul Hasan down to long-off. As is so often the case in these situations, one wicket brought another as Hafeez (45) chased a wide one from Hasan to be caught behind.
The qualifying mark was breached when Nasir Jamshed pulled Hasan over midwicket for six. Jamshed, who scored a cultured half-century against New Zealand in Pakistan’s first match of the tournament, helped himself to 29 in a 52-run partnership with Kamran Akmal that took Pakistan home with eight balls to spare.
At the break, it seemed like Bangladesh had finally done enough to break its 13-year jinx against Pakistan. Ever since a win at the ICC World Cup 1999 in Northampton, Bangladesh had failed to get the better of Pakistan, though it recently came close in the Asia Cup.
If Bangladesh was allowed to dream, it was only thanks to a series of enterprising innings, none more so than Shakib’s 54-ball 84. While Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur made valuable contributions, it was Shakib who controlled the tempo of the innings from No. 3. On a skiddy pitch, first Sohail Tanvir and Umar Gul, and later Yaser Arafat, tried to bounce Shakib out. Cutting and pulling fearlessly, Shakib had answers for all questions asked of him.
The kind of day Pakistan was having on the field was typified by Tanvir’s blooper at midwicket, when a flailed pull from Mushfiqur off Arafat floated towards the fielder like a feather on a light breeze. In a moment that will no doubt be reprised endlessly on Youtube, Tanvir fobbed the ball off, dropping perhaps the easiest catch you will ever see in international cricket.
The real damage, though, was not done by fielding lapses, but by Pakistan’s bowlers failing to hit the right length at any stage of the innings. Shakib feasted, doing well to deal with full tosses and long hops with equal aplomb. When he finally fell, Shakib had muscled 84 off only 54 balls, with 11 fours and two sixes, to take Bangladesh to 175 for 6. Eventually, though, even this would prove too little.