Bangladesh 329 for 7 (Iqbal 132, Rahim 106) beat Pakistan 250 all-out (Ali 72, Rizwan 67, Taskin 3/42) by 79 runs

Bangladesh sent out a message to the world that their quarter-final spot in the World Cup was not a fluke by thrashing Pakistan by 79 runs in the first ODI of the 3-match series. Their comprehensive taming of their subcontinental rivals rode on spectacular hundreds from Tamim Iqbal and the pocket sized Mushfiqur Rahim which propped them to 329 for 6, their highest ever ODI score. Pakistan, reaching 171 for 3 by the 30th over in their reply looked on course to chase the target down (they had chased down something similar last year at Mirpur too). But the old malaise of losing wickets at regular intervals meant that their chase lost steam and they were eventually bundled out for 250 in the 46th over handing Bangladesh only their second win against Pakistan which came after a gap of 16 long years.

Shakib-Al-Hasan who was the acting captain today called right at the toss and had no hesitation in batting first on a placid wicket at the Mirpur Stadium. The Pakistan bowlers made sure that the Bangladeshi batsmen did not get off to a flying start by bowling some tight lines. All eyes were on Saeed Ajmal, who has remodeled his action and was making an international comeback after working on his action for 8 months, when he was called to bowl in the eleventh over. The arm was straighter and the accuracy was good too. He bowled a tight first spell and made life difficult for the Bangladeshi batsmen. Opener Soumya Sarkar batted well but was run out for 20. In-form Mahmudullah walked in to bat at No. 3 but didn’t get going at all against a very disciplined effort by the Pakistani bowlers. In an attempt to break free, Mahmudullah lost his middle stump to Rahat Ali and Bangladesh were tottering at 67 for 2 at the end of the 20th over.

Rahim marched on to the middle and took the pressure off Tamim Iqbal, who was struggling to get the ball off the square, by playing some crisp strokes. The run-rate began to inch up and soon Iqbal found his rhythm too. He swatted part-time spinner Harris Sohail over deep mid-wicket for consecutive sixes and did not put a foot wrong from there. A new-look Pakistani team, playing under Azhar Ali for the first time were fielding just 4 front-line bowlers and had to bowl 10 overs from the part timers. Those 10 overs were shared between Harris, debutant Saad Nasim and the skipper Ali. This is where Iqbal and Rahim were relentless as they scored 79 runs off them. Ali got Ajmal back into the attack in an attempt to stop the runs but even he wasn’t spared as he returned the most expensive figures in his ODI career (0-74 in 10 overs). Iqbal and Rahim added 178 runs for the third wicket, which is now the highest partnership for any wicket for Bangladesh. Iqbal was finally dismissed for a brilliant 132 and was given a standing ovation by the raucous crowd. Rahim continued to thrash the bowling and brought up his third ODI century coming off just 69 balls. His innings of 106 was instrumental in turning the tide towards Bangladesh as they scored 148 runs in the last 15 overs.

Pakistan started solidly with skipper Azhar Ali and Sarfaraz Ahmed opening the innings. Their innings was pegged back when they lost Sarfarz (24) and their No. 3 batsman Hafeez, who was run out for 4, within a space of eleven balls. Ali and Harris then consolidated the innings by rotating the strike and laying a foundation for a big flourish at the back end of the innings. Both hit fighting fifties and kept their team in the hunt. But they lost wickets in a heap and that flourish never came. Debutant Mohammad Rizwan made an impressive 58-ball 67 but he was fighting a lost battle with no support from the lower-middle order. Taskin Ahmed (3/42) was impressive with the old ball and picked up three key wickets which broke the back of the Pakistani run-chase. Left-arm spinner Arafat Sunny too was good with the ball finishing with 3/47.

Bangladesh is looking the stronger side and will look to close out the series in the next game. They did not start this game as the underdogs against an inexperienced Pakistan side which is going through a rebuilding phase after the retirements of Misbah and Shahid Afridi. Pakistan meanwhile will have to reconcile with their underdog status here and regroup themselves before the slide becomes an embarrasment.

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