Pakistan too powerful for Nasir Hossain’s fight

ESPN News Dec 04, 2011: For the second time in two matches, Bangladesh’s top-order batsmen collapsed quickly, this time playing rash shots on an easier pitch, and Pakistan powerful secured the three-match series 2-0 without being stretched in Mirpur.

The home side’s approach to their innings was in contrast to that of Pakistan, who had batted with deliberate caution to guard against early wickets and build a platform for a strong total. The difference in how the teams fared in the first ten overs of their innings decided the match.

Bangladesh’s batsmen did not even begin to challenge Pakistan, crumbling against Mohammad Hafeez and Umar Gul, whose economical yet incisive spells with the new ball made the target of 263 disappear from sight. The collapse began in the fourth over and went on until the tenth, at the end of which Bangladesh were 19 for 4.

Tamim Iqbal slashed at a potential wide and toe-ended it to slip; Imrul Kayes chipped a drive softly to cover; Shahriar Nafees might have inside-edged on to his pad but he had just survived a closer lbw shout; and Mushfiqur Rahim pushed away from his body and was caught at gully. In between these dismissals the batsmen couldn’t get the ball off the square and the asking-rate spiraled irreversibly out of control. Hafeez eventually finished with figures of 10-2-15-2.

Pakistan, on the other hand, used an old-school approach. They were content to play within themselves and build slowly. Pakistan weren’t entirely successful, because Bangladesh broke steady partnerships before they caused too much damage, but the power-hitters, Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi, fired from the platform built for them to reach a sizeable total.

Hafeez and Younis Khan laid the foundations with a partnership of 57 for the second wicket. They blocked the good deliveries when they had to, and shouldered arms when they could. Shafiul Islam and Rubel Hossain conceded only 28 in the first nine overs before Mushfiqur turned to the left-arm spin of Shakib Al Hasan, who continued to tighten Bangladesh’s grip on the run-rate. Hafeez and Younis eventually fell in succession and, at 93 for 3 in the 26th over, Bangladesh had inched ahead.

Then began Pakistan’s strongest partnership, between the two most different batsmen in the XI: Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Akmal. Misbah ensured solidity, while Akmal infused the innings with urgency with his running between the wickets and his repertoire of attacking shots. Though Misbah had begun batting earlier, Akmal was soon double his captain’s score in virtually the same number of deliveries.

The fifty partnership for the fourth wicket came off 54 balls and Akmal brought up his half-century off 49. Shakib had been Bangladesh’s best bowler and his only wicket broke the threatening partnership: Akmal skied the ball inside out to long-off to be caught for 59. Misbah fell soon after, becoming the debutant Elias Sunny’s maiden ODI wicket. At 193 for 5 in the 42nd over, Bangladesh had restored parity.

Shahid Afridi hit his second ball for six, over long-off, and was then dropped on 8 by the bowler Shafiul. He went on to hurt Bangladesh, hitting the ball powerfully and charging between the wickets to score 42 runs off 27 balls. That Bangladesh had to chase more than 250 was their own fault, for they conceded 22 runs in extras, 17 of them through wides.

Bangladesh were not without a hero, though, for Nasir Hossain entertained the strong crowd by scoring his maiden ODI century. Unfortunately for Hossain, he began his innings after the game was lost, and he did not have partners who batted with similar purpose.

Even Shakib, who is usually hard to subdue if he bats long, managed only 34 off 90 balls. That partnership of 106 for the fifth wicket took 32.1 overs and caused the asking-rate to skyrocket.

Hossain could have been out on 9 had the wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed held an easy catch, and as Pakistan eased their intensity because they were never going to lose, he began to play his shots, taking on a formidable spin attack. Hossain began the 49th over on 86 off 127 balls and reached his century in the next four deliveries.

He slammed Afridi over the extra-cover boundary for six, and cut through point, before playing a dot ball. On 96, he charged and swung, getting an edge that beat Sarfraz and went to the boundary. The crowd and his team-mates applauded him warmly, for he had been an example to his more experienced team-mates.

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