Pakistan outplay Bangladesh to win Asia Cup Super Four opener

LAHORE - Pakistan showcased a dominating all-round performance to secure a command­ing seven-wicket victory over Bangladesh to start the Asia Cup 2023 Super Four campaign in a great style here at packed Gaddafi Stadium on Wednesday night. 

The star performers for Pakistan were opener Imam-ul-Haq and wicketkeep­er-batsman Mohammad Rizwan, who played pivotal roles in successfully chas­ing down the modest target of 194 runs. This victory was made possible after they reached 194-3 in 39.3 overs. Paki­stan bowlers also played a crucial role in containing the Bangladesh team to a low total of 193 runs. Haris Rauf and Naseem Shah delivered exceptional performanc­es with the ball, claiming four and three wickets, respectively. 

In their pursuit of the 194-run target, Pakistan got off to a solid start, accumu­lating 35 runs before losing their first wicket, Fakhar Zaman, who contributed 20 runs before being dismissed lbw by Shoriful Islam. Opener Imam and captain Babar Azam then combined to build a crucial partnership of 39 runs for the sec­ond wicket. Babar, after scoring 17, was the next to fall, bowled by Taskin Ahmed, leaving Pakistan at a score of 74-2. 

Imam continued to anchor the innings and was joined by Rizwan. Together, they added a significant 85 runs to the team’s total. Imam eventually departed after scoring an impressive 78 off 84 balls, including five boundaries and four sixes, courtesy of Mehidy Hasan. 

With victory in sight, Rizwan, along with Agha Salman, took Pakistan home comfortably in the 39.3 overs. Rizwan contributed a vital 63 runs off 79 balls, with seven boundaries and a six, while Agha Salman remained unbeaten with 12 runs. For Bangladesh, Taskin Ahmed, Shoriful Islam, and Mehidy Hasan man­aged to pick up one wicket each. 

During this match, captain Babar Azam achieved another milestone, sur­passing the record previously held by India’s Virat Kohli. Babar now stands as the fastest captain to reach 2,000 runs in the ODIs, accomplishing this feat in just 31 innings. This achievement eclips­es Kohli’s previous record, which he achieved in 36 innings. 

Earlier opting to bat first, Bangladeshi openers struggled to find their footing, losing wickets at regular intervals. It was only the fifth-wicket partnership that managed to steady the ship, contribut­ing to a somewhat respectable total. However, following this partnership, the Bangal Tigers found themselves vulner­able to the relentless Pakistani bowlers, resulting in a meager total of 193 runs, achieved in 38.4 overs. 

The good batting performances for Bangladesh came from Mushfiqur Ra­him, who played a gritty knock of 64 runs off 87 balls, featuring five well-placed boundaries. Captain Shakib Al Hasan showcased his leadership on the field with a half-century, scoring 53 runs off 57 balls, including seven boundar­ies. Opener Mohammad Naim chipped in with 20 runs off 25 balls, while Litton Das and Shamim Hossain contributed 16 runs each, and Atif Hussain added 12 runs to the tally. Unfortunately, no other Bangladeshi batsman managed to reach double figure. 

Pakistani pacer Haris Rauf wreaked havoc for Bangladesh batters with four crucial wickets for a mere 19 runs. He received valuable support from Naseem Shah, who claimed three wickets for 34 runs. Shaheen Shah Afridi, Faheem Ashraf, and Iftikhar Ahmed each chipped in with one wicket. 

Today (Thursday), the teams of Paki­stan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh will embark on their journey to Colombo aboard a chartered plane as they pre­pare to compete in the Super Four stage of the Asia Cup 2023 in Colombo while the final will also be played at the same venue. Accompanying the teams on the chartered flight will be broadcasters and other officials.

Azhar Khan is an accomplished senior sports journalist with extensive experience in the field. He can be reached at azharmasood786@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter at @azharmasood786