KOLKATA: Skipper Shahid Afridi starred with both bat and ball as he powered Pakistan to a comprehensive 55-run victory against Bangladesh in his team’s opening match of the World T20 in Kolkata on Wednesday.
Afridi’s blistering 19-ball 49 helped Pakistan post a commanding total of 201-5 and his two-wicket haul was instrumental in restricting Bangladesh to 146-6.
‘Boom Boom’ Afridi, whose batting form had fallen away in recent months, rose to the occasion after promoting himself to number four in the order.
The skipper smacked four boundaries and four sixes to help Pakistan register their second highest score in T20Is, just two short of their record 203 against Bangladesh.
Opting to bat after winning the toss, Pakistani top-order batsmen Ahmad Shahzad (52) and Mohammad Hafeez (64) hit entertaining fifties to stitch a 95-run second-wicket partnership and lay a solid foundation for others to build on.
The duo combined the right dose of caution and aggression to blunt the Bangladesh bowling attack, with Tigers’ captain Mashrafe Mortaza unable to stem the tide in the absence of injured bowler Mustafizur Rahman.
Shahzad, who was recalled after missing the recent Asia Cup, reached his fifth T20I half-century in 35 deliveries.
Hafeez was not far behind as the former skipper, who posted his ninth T20I fifty, struck seven fours and two sixes in his 42-ball stay.
The only bright spot for Bangladesh was a moment of brilliance in the field when Soumya Sarkar took a breathtaking catch on the boundary rope to bring an end to Hafeez’s innings.
Bangladesh were never really in the hunt during the chase and their innings got off to a dreadful start when opener Soumya Sarkar was bowled by Mohammad Amir off only the third ball.
The in-form Tamim Iqbal and Sabbir Rahman put on 43 for the second wicket, but they both fell victim to Afridi and Bangladesh’s chase fell away.
Amir, on the comeback trail after serving a prison sentence and a five-year ban for spot-fixing, ended with impressive figures of 2-27 in his four overs.
Bangladesh’s star all-rounder Shakib alHasan put up some resistance, top-scoring for the Tigers with an unbeaten 50.
His 40-ball knock was studded with five boundaries and a six, but only really served to help Bangladesh’s net run rate and never looked like altering the outcome.
In the end it was an all-Pakistan show, banishing much of the gloom surrounding the side after their recent run of bad form and their delayed departure to India in a row over security.
The result is particularly satisfying for man-of-the-match Afridi who had been under fire back home in the build-up after saying that Pakistan received more ‘love’ from Indian fans than from supporters back home.