Though Pakistan couldn’t achieve the improbable task against the Tigers, they did finish the tournament with a resounding win. They will look back and reflect upon some very bad performances at the beginning of this tournament, which clearly cost them a shot at the semifinals. India and Australia’s destinations are yet to be confirmed for the semifinals, but England will play in Birmingham and New Zealand will be waiting in Manchester.
With the bars set very high to catch, the Pakistani openers had no other choice but to go full monty right from the word go, but they took the other route. Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq kick-started on a cautious note and people expected them to go big after a few overs. That never happened and Fakhar was dismissed for an embarrassing 31-ball 13.
Babar Azam and Imam-ul-Haq stitched a good partnership for the second wicket, which barely pleased the Pakistani fans. The duo showed no great intent to score anything beyond 400 or even try to do the spectacular, which upset a lot of people watching. Nevertheless, one cannot disregard the fact that they batted beautifully.
Both completed their half-centuries but the scoring rate was still around five. Babar Azam tried to find some momentum after getting to his fifty but fell just four runs short of a hundred. Imam and Babar added 157 runs for the second wicket. Imam, who took the back seat during that huge stand, upped the ante and got to his first World Cup hundred.
He soon was dismissed after his leg clipped the stumps while attempting a pull shot. A flurry of wickets did half their momentum, but Imad Wasim‘s 26-ball 43 helped Pakistan get to 315 runs at the end of 50 overs. Mustafizur Rahman, who nearly picked up a hat-trick in the 50th over, returned with another five-fer.
Shaheen Afridi cleans up the Tigers
Soumya Sarkar lashed on some freebies and did get off to a good start, but his poor run in the tournament continued till the very end as he fell in the 6th over to the brilliance of Mohammad Amir. Shaheen Afridi soon cleaned up Tamim’s stumps, which left Mushfiqur Rahman and the in-form Shakib Al Hasan with a gigantic task in hand.
It was just another day at the office for Shakib and silently walked his way to another half-century. Mushfiqur couldn’t support his partner much, but Liton Das stood firm and a good partnership was building between him and Shakib. But Sarfaraz’s masterstroke to bring back Shaheen Afridi into the attack changed the dynamic.
He first picked up Liton Das and soon forced Shakib to play a false shot, which ended his remarkable campaign on a sorrow note. The left-arm fast bowler showed no respite in the middle overs and bowled probing channels. Mahmudullah and Mosaddek Hossain did give the Tigers some hopes in the middle overs, but once Shadab picked up Mosaddek’s wicket, they fell apart.
Shaheen Afridi picked up two wickets in the 41st over that of Saifuddin and Mahmudullah to complete a five-fer. Mashrafe Mortaza had a late blitz left in him with the willow, spanking a few big sixes for his side. It was too little too late eventually as Shadab got him stumped. Shaheen Afridi soon picked up the 6th wicket and ended with the best figures by a Pakistani cricketer in a World Cup game. Pakistan won by 94 runs, but this wasn’t pleasing enough for their fans.
Pakistan: 315/9 in 50 overs (Imam-ul-Haq 100, Babar Azam 96; Mustafizur Rahman 5/75, Mohammad Saifuddin 3/77)
Bangladesh: 221 all out in 44.1 overs (Shakib Al Hasan 64; Shaheen Afridi 6/35, Shadab Khan 2/59)
Result: Pakistan won by 94 runs
Man of the match: Shaheen Afridi
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