KOLKATA, India – Pakistan
captain Shahid Afridi led by example as his team put a tumultuous build-up behind them to launch their bid for a second World Twenty20 title with a 55-run victory against qualifiers Bangladesh on Wednesday.
It took a lot of cajoling from the organisers to convince Pakistan to shed their security apprehensions and once they landed for the tournament, Afridi's comments about getting more love in India than in Pakistan riled up fans back home.
None of it, however, seemed to affect the team who posted a strong 201-5 at Kolkata's Eden Gardens after opting to bat first and restricted their opponents to 146-6 in a lopsided Group Two contest.
Afridi blasted a 19-ball 49 and returned to take 2-27 in a personally satisfying outing for the flamboyant 36-year-old all-rounder.
Afridi had been worried about Pakistan's batting inconsistency and mentioned it at the toss but the all-rounder had no reasons to complain on Wednesday as the top order fired in unison.
They lost opener Sharjeel Khan (18) cheaply but Mohammad Hafeez (64) and Ahmed Shehzad (52) added 95 runs in 11.2 overs to lay the foundation for the team's only second 200-plus total in this format.
After Shehzad's dismissal, Afridi promoted himself in the batting order and clobbered four sixes in a typically entertaining knock.
Hafeez fell to a stunning catch by Soumya Sarkar in the deep, the overbalancing fielder throwing the ball up before crossing the rope and returning in time to complete the catch.
Bangladesh's left-arm spinner Arafat Sunny, who was reported for a suspect bowling action earlier in the tournament, claimed 2-34 but it was otherwise a forgettable outing for their bowling attack.
Bangladesh needed a strong start to chase down such a big target but Mohammad Amir (2-27) sent Sarkar's off-stump cartwheeling in the first over before Afridi's double strikes reduced the qualifiers to 58-3 in eight overs.
Down the order, Shakib Al Hasan remained not out on 50 but the target proved too much for Bangladesh's limited batting resources. –Reuters