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Awesome Afridi fires again

Shahid Afridi was again at his big-hitting best to earn Pakistan a place in Saturday’s Asia Cup final courtesy of a high-scoring defeat of Bangladesh in Mirpur.

On Sunday Afridi smashed back-to-back maximums in the final over to clinch a dramatic one-wicket win over arch-rivals India. Today he smote seven sixes in a 25-ball 59 that aided a three-wicket triumph with a delivery to spare.

Pakistan’s chances of overhauling the Tigers’ strong 326 for three looked slim when Afridi strode to the crease at 225 for five in the 42nd over. However, he utterly dominated a stand of 69 in 5.3 overs with Fawad Alam, lacing a fifty from 18 deliveries to set up Pakistan’s highest chase.

The barrage from Afridi, who was dropped by wicketkeeper Mushfiqur Rahim on 52, meant Pakistan could afford to lose him and Alam, for 74, in the closing overs and still rely on Umar Akmal to see them over the line.

Ahmed Shehzad’s fifth one-day international hundred set up the chase and overcame the loss of three wickets in as many overs. Once Shehzad added 97 with fellow opener Mohammad Hafeez, two scalps for Mominul Haque left the visitors 105 for three.

Shehzad and Fawad responded with an alliance worth 105 until Abdur Razzaq bowled the former for 103. Following Abdur Rehman’s departure, Afridi announced himself with a six and did not look back.

It was a bitter pill to swallow for Bangladesh, who benefited from winning the toss through a 150-run opening partnership between Anamul Haq and Imrul Kayes.

Kayes was the first of three Tigers half-centurions - Mominul Haque and Mushfiqur were the others - while Anamul made his second format ton, falling for 100 in the 40th over, the first of two wickets for Saeed Ajmal.

Mushfiqur was unbeaten on 51 from 33 balls while Shakib Al Hasan cracked a 44 off 16 deliveries to ensure the hosts’ highest ODI score.