Shaheen Afridi’s record haul not enough to pull Pakistan through

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Pakistan 315 for 9 (Imam 100, Babar 96, Mustafizur 5-75) beat Bangladesh 221 (Shakib 64, Shaheen Afridi 6-35) by 94 runs

The ridiculous fantasies of engineering a win cricket simply isn’t created to throw up aside, this was an excellent Pakistan performance, subduing a side that three weeks ago, most would have fancied to turn them over. It means they become the first team to bow out at a World Cup with four consecutive wins, also ending a streak of four successive Bangladesh victories over them.

Pakistan needed to win by a record margin, of the kind Uganda women handed out to Mali women – posting 314 and then skittling them for 10. To give you a sense of how desperately flimsy the strand by which Pakistan’s hopes hung, that would not have been enough. They batted first and put on 315; they needed to restrict Bangladesh to below 8.

While that was never on anyone’s mind, what Pakistan did find was a gem in Shaheen Afridi, who eclipsed Shahid Afridi to pick the best figures for Pakistan in World Cup – 6 for 35 – as Pakistan bowed out in front of a sea of green – both set of fans included – with a 94-run win at Lord’s.

The win was set up by Imam Ul Haq, who got himself on the famous Lord’s board with a sixth ODI century. Babar Azam missed joining him, but made a sublime 96 as Pakistan posted 315 for 9. With the ball, there was nothing ordinary about Shaheen Afridi, the youngest man to take a five-fer at a World Cup, his six wickets cleaning up Bangladesh inside 45 overs. Only Shakib Al Hasan, who finished the World Cup with 606 runs, offering any sort of steel with a industrious 64.

Pakistan won the toss and opted to bat – batting second would have eliminated them straightaway – but any ideas of galloping to a 400-plus evaporated quickly. Bangladesh intelligently opened up with offspinner Mehidy Hasan to counter Fakhar Zaman’s threat. He would concede only six runs in the four overs he bowled while the opener was at the crease, and when he holed out at point to Mohammad Saifuddin, he had scored 13 off 31. Hardly the stuff of 400-exceeding totals, that.

To their credit, Imam and Babar decided to play for a morale-boosting win, rather than aiming for the impossible, negotiating Shakib’s spin threat expertly. It also helped that Mashrafe Mortaza, Bangladesh’s captain with a wonky knee and in his last lap, was inaccurate with his lines, thereby allowing them to target him.

Him being hit out of the attack meant Saifudin and Mustafizur Rahman brought back somewhat earlier than had been planned. During the course of his innings, Babar became the most prolific run-scorer at a World Cup for Pakistan, surpassing Javed Miandad’s 437 runs at the 1992 World Cup. He fell four runs shy of what would have been a richly deserved hundred, but by then, Pakistan were well on their way to a potentially match-winning score.

Imam at the other end completed his, but trod on his stumps the very next ball, triggering a collapse which meant they couldn’t quite launch at the end. Imad Wasim was left to the usual cameo-playing role, one that he has begun to perfect with impressive consistency. It took Pakistan past 300; they posted the fifth-highest score at Lord’s in ODI history, and it always looked a touch too much for a Bangladesh side so heavily reliant on Shakib.

The man himself wouldn’t disappoint, notching up yet another half-century, his seventh this World Cup, and going past 600 runs at the tournament, a feat bettered only by Sachin Tendulkar and Mathew Hayden. But with Soumya Sarkar and Tamim Iqbal departing early, and Mushfiqur Rahim cleaned up by a vicious Wahab Riaz inswinger, there was always the sense this game would cease to be competitive from the moment Shakib was dismissed.

With the asking rate, as well as the pressure on his admirably broad shoulders, rising, he nicked off to Sarfaraz Ahmed to give Shaheen his third wicket. It brought down the curtain on one of the all-time great World Cup campaigns, but in the process, also wound up Bangladesh’s chase. There was more cheer for Shaheen and Pakistan, though.

Shaheen, who has improved with every game that Pakistan have won over the past fortnight, became the youngest player to take a five-for at a World Cup, cleaning up the lower order in much the same way he had three of the top five.

Tamim Iqbal hasn’t had the best World Cup, despite coming into this tournament as the highest Bangladesh run scorer of the past four years. It was a bad time to run into Shaheen, who, after a slow start to the tournament, had begun to ignite. On Friday, he was molten hot, but it was ice-cool wiles rather than fiery passion that broke through the Bangladesh opener, a slower delivery deceiving him all ends up.

Liton Das fell to another slower delivery, this one so well disguised it might have fooled most Secret Services. He could only scoop it to short extra cover, and that was the moment Shakib began running out of partners. It meant a change in attitude from the Bangladesh talisman, and once he found himself forced into an uncomfortable position off one that seamed away, his, and Bangladesh’s, fate was sealed. Mahmudullah was felled by a yorker shortly after, and the tail was never going to be a match for him.

Shaheen’s figures read a record-breaking 6-35 in 9.1 overs. They might not have been the records Pakistan were looking to break, but in Babar, Imam and Shaheen, they have the ingredients for a more successful World Cup recipe in four years’ time. (ESPNCricinfo)