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Afridi leads from front as Pakistan hammer Bangladesh by 55 runs

Stung by unwarranted criticism, Shahid Afridi gave a fitting reply with a brilliant all-round performance guiding his team to a comprehensive 55-run win over Bangladesh in a group league encounter of the ICC World T20, here this evening.

The Pakistan skipper led by example blasting 49 off only 19 balls with winners scoring a massive 201 for five after opting to bat.

Afridi then bowled his superfast leg-breaks to grab 2/27 in four overs to restrict Bangladesh to 146 for six in their stipulated 20 overs on a batting friendly Eden Gardens track.

He deservingly got ‘Man of the Match’ award and also the victory was a sweet revenge for Pakistan, who were ousted from Asia Cup by Mashrafe Mortaza’s men only a couple of weeks back.

Afridi very rarely plays rampaging innnings these days but on Wednesday afternoon, he did show why he is known as ‘Boom boom’ as balls disappeared thick and fast into stands.

He hit four sixes apart from equal number of boundaries and his innings was the difference between 150 and 200. Before Afridi’s carnage, Ahmed Shehzad (52 from 39 balls; 8x4) and Mohammad Hafeez (64 from 42b; 7x4, 2x6) had laid the foundation with a 95-run partnership from 68 balls.

Afridi got the perfect platform as he took just one single to settle down before smashing Mortaza for consecutive boundaries and a six.

Afridi was exquisite with his shot selection and had all the time to improvise as he raced to 25 from nine balls toying Bangladesh bowlers with ease on a fast outfield.

Such was his power that his mistimed shots went over boundary and the 25,000-plus present in stands mostly comprised die-hard Afridi fans. Afridi’s blitzkrieg along with half centuries from Hafeez and Shehzad meant that their batting came to fore ahead of March 19’s big match against traditional rivals India who will be looking for survival after their loss to New Zealand on Tuesday.

In reply, Bangladesh were in no way in the game and the fast and furious Mohammad Amir provided the perfect start unsettling Soumya Sarkar’s offstump in the third ball.

Amid loud cheers, Afridi brought himself on in the sixth over and angled one into Sabbir Rahaman (25) cramping him for room as he was bowled.

Incidentally, Pakistan’s highest T20 International total was also scored against the same opposition when they piled 203/5 in April 2008.

Earlier, having lost the early wicket of Sharjeel Khan (18) in the third over, Hafeez and Shehzad laid the foundation for Pakistan in their match turning second-wicket partnership that came off just 68 balls.

A day after getting his suspect action tested in Chennai, left-arm spinner Arafat Sunny who was drafted into the side in place of Abu Hider Rony, provided the first breakthrough in dismissing Khan after Pakistan elected to bat.

Bangladeshi bowlers struggled to adjust their length to the conditions and either bowled full or two short and it did not help their cause. Barring a spectacular acrobatic catch by Soumya Sarkar to dismiss Hafeez, the fielding looked sloppy.

I don’t live in past, says Afridi
Not ready to dwell on the past, Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi says the moral-boosting win over Bangladesh will hold them in good stead when they clash with arch-rivals India World T20 match at the Eden Gardens on Saturday.

Stung by unwarranted criticism and controversy, Afridi on Wednesday gave a fitting reply with a brilliant all-round show as he blasted 49 off 19 balls and also took two for 27 in his four overs to help Pakistan avenge their Asia Cup loss to Bangladesh by notching up a 55-run win and start their World T20 campaign on a positive note. Pakistan’s next WT20 match is against India on Saturday here, a venue where the visitors have never lost to the home team before.
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