ICC World T20 - Men
Afridi back to best as Bangladesh wilt
Shahid Afridi shrugs off controversial week to tee off with quick-fire 49 then adds two key wickets as Pakistan cruise to a 55-run win
16 March 2016, 11:59 PM AEST
The match in a tweet: The Shahid Afridi show! Boom-Boom the star as Pakistan fire with bat and ball to sound WT20 warning and thrash Bangladesh by 55 runs in Kolkata
The hero: Shahid Afridi loves the big stage. The ageless veteran shrugged off some indifferent form with the bat to state his intentions from the very start – his first few balls disappeared for 16 runs – including a sequence of 4-4-6, the last one a no ball. Afridi had looked on track to set a new Pakistan record for the fastest T20 fifty – it seems incongruous he doesn't already own it – but fell just short, caught on the boundary for 49. No milestone, but the pace of his innings – coming in just 18 balls – was enough to blast Bangladesh out of the water and set Pakistan on course for their first 200-run World T20 total.
The support cast: Ahmed Shehzad wasn't originally in Pakistan's World T20 plans, having been overlooked for the Asia Cup. Aiming a blast at the selectors through the media may not have seemed the wisest career choice, but Pakistan's disappointing showing in the Asia Cup paved the way for his return. Of course, in the first match of the World T20, he delivered, and in style. Perhaps with a point to prove, he picked gaps at played the anchor role. With Mohammad Hafeez the pair added 95 in partnership as they lashed Bangladesh's bowlers around the park. The revitalised opener's fifty came from 35 balls and brought a thankful look to the heavens. He parted on 52, an attempt at a helicopter stroke well hit but to the longest boundary at 86m he was caught just inside the rope, having hit eight fours in his 39 balls.
The moment: If Bangladesh were going to make a fist of this run chase, they would need to race out of the blocks and make their intentions clear from the outset. Instead, it was Pakistan proving they were on-song with bat and ball. Mohammad Amir has made a habit of taking early wickets. The ball that sliced through Soumya Sarker's defence to send the off-stump cartwheeling was the seventh time he's taken a T20 wicket in the first over. Not only did it remove a dangerous batsmen, it set out Pakistan's intent and immediately put Bangladesh on the back foot.
The consolation effort: It's difficult to overstate the importance of fielding in T20 cricket and there's no better example of how the game has changed than Soumya Sarker's athletic effort on the boundary line. With Hafeez well set and looking dangerous, Soumya made the most of the smallest window of opportunity, dancing a delicate dance along the boundary line – and over it – showing deft hands, nimble feet and a cool temperament to claim the catch. It was desperately needed for Bangladesh, with Hafeez and Shezhad having added 95 and Afridi quickly into his work. It allowed Bangladesh to stem the runs – albeit temporarily.
The stat: For a batting line-up that has been misfiring, the stat that this was Pakistan's first ever score in excess of 200 at the World T20 is the one that will warm the hearts of those over the Radcliffe Line
The wash-up: Could Group 2 be any tougher? New Zealand have already laid down a marker and now have Pakistan. Bangladesh have enough weapons not to be written off but their route out of this group looks the most perilous of the five teams. For Pakistan, after an underwhelming Asia Cup suddenly they're firing on all cylinders. Shezhad and Hafeez look dangerous at the top of the order, Afridi has rediscovered his mojo and young talisman Amir is continuing to prove irresistible with the ball.
The next stop: For Pakistan, it doesn't come any bigger than their next encounter: the hotly anticipated clash with arch-rivals India. Following India's opening night defeat to New Zealand the hosts will be even more desperate for victory. Bangladesh's next opponent is Australia in Bangalore. Bangladesh was the only side Australia defeated at the last World T20. It may not mean much to the players, but there will also be plenty of feeling for supporters in this match, with many Bangladesh fans still feeling aggrieved by Cricket Australia's decision to postpone a two-Test tour there last October.