Nazir fireworks send Bangladesh packing
Imran Nazir dominated an opening stand of 124 with Mohammad Hafeez as Pakistan cruised through to the Super Eight stage of the World Twenty20 at Bangladesh’s expense with an eight-wicket triumph in Pallekele.
Nazir, dropped on one by Abul Hasan, blasted 72 from just 36 deliveries and received able support from his skipper, who contributed a more sedate 45.
After choosing to bat, Bangladesh knew they needed to win by at least 36 runs to qualify from Group D.
A thrilling 54-ball 84 from Shakib Al Hasan underpinned a healthy total of 175 for six that gave the Tigers genuine hope, yet it was not long before Pakistan seized control, thanks largely to Nazir’s shot-a-ball knock.
Needing a huge total to put any real pressure on their opponents, Bangladesh made a flying start in reaching 61 for two by the end of the six-over powerplay.
Mohammad Ashraful struck three fours before being bowled by Sohail Tanvir, while Tamim Iqbal cracked 24 from 12 deliveries, only to be run out following a mix-up with Shakib, who duly took apart the Pakistan attack.
On a true surface, the left-hander exhibited power, inventiveness and no small amount of skill, with two inside-out drives over cover the highlights of a superb innings.
With the exception of Shahid Afridi, who returned 1-20 from a full allocation, the bowling lacked discipline and Umar Gul, so often an effective performer in the game’s shortest form, was punished for a host of loose deliveries as he conceded 43 in three woeful overs.
Pakistan’s fielding was even more dismal. Three catches went down - Tanvir spilled an absolute sitter to reprieve Mushfiqur Rahim during a third-wicket stand of 68 - and there were several other moments of sloppiness.
Shakib received a life the ball after bringing up his half-century with a pulled six off Yasir Arafat, although Afridi could be excused for not taking a tough one-handed chance as he dived to his left at mid-on.
Yasir eventually removed the dangerman, to collect the second of three scalps, when Shakib holed out in the final over and both Pakistan openers then survived early scares in reply.
Hafeez edged the first ball of the innings, from Mashrafe Mortaza, inches past second slip, while Abul Hasan spurned a simple opportunity off Shafiul Islam after Nazir had top-edged a pull to mid-on.
Those incidents soon appeared significant as Shafiul and Mashrafe, continually dropping short, conceded 20 and 15 respectively in successive overs to leave Pakistan firmly on course.
Nazir made the most of his reprieve by bringing up the fastest fifty in the tournament - from 25 balls - with a host of brutal strokes.
The century partnership soon arrived in the 11th over and although Abul eventually accounted for Nazir, who holed out to long-off, and Hafeez, caught behind chasing a wide one, in the space of four deliveries, it mattered little.
A mighty six from Nasir Jamshed, who put on an unbroken 52 with Kamran Akmal in 4.4 overs, ensured Pakistan’s progression to the next phase and victory was subsequently completed with eight balls unused.