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Nazir takes Pakistan to Super Eights with super chase

To progress in the tournament, Bangladesh needed to not only post their first win over Pakistan in 13 years, but win by at least 36 runs. On a true pitch, Shakib Al Hasan posted the highest score by a Bangladesh batsman to facilitate their second-highest total, but Imran Nazir whacked his way to the fastest fifty in this World T20 to calm down any nerves there might have been after the effort in the field.

It was also a night that will be remembered for shoddy short bowling on a flat track and shoddier catching by both sides. Sohail Tanvir put down one of the simplest catches ever put down in international cricket, Kamran Akmal let through a regulation take, but it was the drop by Abul Hasan, brought in to replace Elias Sunny, that proved decisive in the end. Had he held on, Nazir would have been gone on 1 and Shafiul Islam would have got off to a confident start with a first-ball wicket. Nazir ended up with 72.

It didn’t help that the chance had come off a short delivery, which encouraged them to keep bowling short, and Nazir, often good with the horizontal bat, took full toll. In his second over, Shafiul kept bowling short and was carter for four, four and six. Another short ball that went for five wides made it 20 off the over, and Pakistan had had a head start at 43 for 0 after four overs. Clearly they were not going for just the qualification. The win was on their mind.

That even Shakib was making mistakes was sign enough. Relief arrived for Bangladesh when Nazir and Hafeez fell in one Hasan over, after which came a quiet five-run over, bringing the equation down to 45 needed off five overs. For the first time it seemed Pakistan might be conscious of that qualification mark – now nine runs away – but Nasir Jamshed quashed those thoughts with two of the finest shots, four through point and a flicked six over square leg, off the next two balls.Mohammad Hafeez remained the calm man at other end, chipping and pushing runs as Nazir kept up his power hitting while getting at least one short ball every over. After Shakib put the brakes on with just four in the seventh over, Nazir stepped out of the crease to hit Abdur Razzak over mid-off to break the rhythm. That four took him to 42 off 18, and the fifty came when Shakib provided him with a long hop for six in the 10th over.

That was cue enough for Kamran to open up too, and the rest was just a stroll. Had you mentioned the word stroll in the first innings, though, Pakistan’s coach Dav Whatmore would have given you a piece of his mind. For the most part, it was a stroll for Shakib, who capitalised on the brisk start provided by Mohammad Ashraful and Tamim Iqbal.

Shakib had the extra responsibility after playing a significant role in Tamim’s run-out at 61 for 2 in the sixth over. He had himself raced away to 16 off 11 by then, took it easy for the next three overs, and then resumed the charge with two fours off Saeed Ajmal in the 10th over. When Tanvir dropped a dolly from Mushfiqur Rahim in the 13th over, Shakib had reached 42 off 30. He introduced a second wind to that innings now, hitting short deliveries from Yasir Arafat for four and six to bring up his fifty.

Another period of calm followed when Arafat and Shahid Afridi managed two wickets in five deliveries, but Kamran failed to make it three in eight when he dropped a sitter from Nasir Hossain. At 133 for 4 in the 16th over Shakib remained the main threat. He moved around the crease in the 18th over to pay with Umar Gul’s length, scoping, flicking and cover-driving for fours. With 33 coming off the last three overs, Pakistan’s travel agent might have had a look at Karachi fares, but Nazir put them back on their way to Colombo.

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