Even a rusty Pakistan side was too good for Bangladesh in the opening match of the Kitply Cup Tri-Nation Series. At the Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur, both the teams – Pakistan and Bangladesh never really played their best game, but it was the more experienced side that won the match comfortably by 70 runs in a rain shortened game. Pakistan had a disappointing show from its batsmen but the bowlers did a tremendous job in giving Bangladesh no chance.
This opening match was threatened by rain and it was looking unlikely that the match would get underway. But the superb draining facilities of the ground made a 40-Overs contest possible! Bangladesh won the toss and rightly put their opposition in with the pitch expected to have some juice for the seamers. The Bangladesh new ball bowlers failed to exploit the conditions and were on the shorter side. This helped Pakistan get a lovely start from openers Salman Butt and Kamran Akmal. The breakthrough only came in the 12th over when finally a Bangladeshi bowler got the ball to pitch in the right spot to get the movement. Kamran Akmal was the man to go after making 25 (from 27 balls with 2 fours and a six) in an opening stand of 75. Debutant Dollar Mahmud was the wicket taker. In the next ball itself after Kamran Akmal’s dismissal, Bangladesh found their next wicket when Younis Khan was too slow and casual in his running to be run out without facing a delivery!
Pakistan after that double blow started to consolidate the innings through Salman Butt and Mohammad Yousuf. Both gave the necessary foundation for the last few overs with their solid batting. Butt eventually fell trying to play a big shot to miss out on a hundred. The left hander made a well paced 70 in 84 balls with the help of 10 fours as Pakistan moved to 140 for 3 in 25 overs. Pak then promoted Shahid Afridi ahead of Misbah-ul-Haq and Shoaib Malik and the move didn’t really help them. Afridi could only play a brief knock of 20 from 17 balls before holing out in the deep. Alok Kapali, the leg spinner who took this wicket went onto induce a false drive from Yousuf (59 from 56 balls with 7 fours) four balls later to reduce the score to 180 for 5 in 31 overs. Pakistan then faltered big way to be bowled out for just 233 in 39.3 overs! They could atleast get there because of the 22-ball 39 (with 3 fours and 2 sixes) from Misbah, who batted as low as no.7! Shoaib Malik’s team had lost their last five wickets for just six runs in the space of 17 balls.
Spinners did the damage for Bangladesh with left armer Abdur Razzak with 3 for 35 and leggie Alok Kapali with 3 for 49. Bangladesh had a great chance of winning the match and they did get to a decent start, however on the slower side from Tamim Iqbal and Shahriar Nafees. The Pakistani bowling was tight enough to keep a lid on the scoring and that was enough to sustain the pressure and force the batsmen to make the mistakes. The first wicket fell in the 9th over with Shahriar Nafees perishing to a loose drive off left armer Wahab Riaz. Few overs later, Shahid Afridi removed the other opener Tamim Iqbal (29 from 38 balls) in the 13th over. After that the homeside kept on losing too many wickets to find themselves out of the contest at a hopeless 98 for 5. They could only end up with 163 for 8 in the allotted 40 overs with the final over being a maiden from Younis Khan!
The top scorer was the helpless Captain – Mohammad Ashraful with an unbeaten 56 from 93 with just 3 fours. He even had to take a blow on his helmet to a magic delivery from Sohail Tanvir, which clocked at just 112kmph but a lot quicker off the turf. The best bowlers for Pakistan were left arm medium pacer Wahab Riaz with 3 for 22 in 7 overs and Shahid Afridi with 3 for 19 in 8 overs. The Man of the Match went to Salman Butt.