Shahid Afridi recovered in time from fever to lead Pakistan’s emphatic 55-run win over Bangladesh to give his team a kick-start in the World Twenty20 at Eden Gardens in Kolkatta.
The lively allrounder, who had to miss the pre-match training due to fever hit an impetus-giving 19-ball 49 to lead Pakistan to an imperious 201-5 in their 20 overs and then took 2-27 in his four overs to get Bangladesh 146-6 in 20 overs.
Pakistan achieved two much needed things from the match, their struggling batting showed signs of recovery while Afridi came out in flying colours after questions on his place in the team due to lack of performance.
This win will also help Pakistan’s confidence ahead of their much hyped game against India on Saturday.
Under pressure for his “get more love in India than Pakistan” comment on team’s arrival Afridi built the innings with four boundaries and as many towering sixes before holing out in the last over, missing a chance to score his first Twenty20 fifty since the World Twenty20 in 2012.
Pakistan had raced to 26 inside the third over, with opener Sharjeel Khan hitting two sixes and a boundary off ten balls before he was bowled by left-at spinner Arafat Sunny.
Mohammad Hafeez carried his form from the warm-up match when he scored 70 against Sri Lanka, coming out in the crease and supplementing Ahmed Shehzad in their innings-building partnership which set the platform for Afridi.
Hafeez hit a 42-ball 64 with seven boundaries and two sixes while Shehzad smashed 39-ball 52 spiced with eight boundaries and together they took Pakistan to 55 in the six power-play overs — their best in that phase this year.
It was Afridi, who scored just two runs in the three Asia Cup games, who lifted the tempo. He hit his counterpart Mashrafe Mortaza
Pakistan piled up their second highest Twenty20 score after winning the toss and electing to bat on a pitch which had several patches of grass. Their best total in all Twenty20 is also against Bangladesh when they made 203 in Karachi eight years ago.
Bangladesh were off to a disastrous start when Mohammad Amir bamboozled opener Soumya Sarkar with a sharp delivery that hit his off-stump.
Afridi then came to bowl the sixth over and was greeted by Tamim Iqbal with a six and a four by Sabbir Rahman before the Pakistani skipper had the last laugh, bowling Sabbir with a sharp googly for 19-ball 25.
Bangladesh’s key man Tamim, who hit a century in team’s last game, fell in Afridi’s next over when he miscued a slog sweep and was smartly snapped up by Imad Wasim at deep square-leg. Tamim made 24.
Pakistan made further inroads when Imad had Mahmudullah Riyad for just four, leaving Bangladesh struggling at 71-4.
Shakib Al Hasan, who crossed 1,000 Twenty20 runs, during his 40-ball 50 not out, and Mushfiqur Rahim (18 off 21 balls) batted without any purpose as Bangladesh needed 104 in the last five overs, always beyond their reach.
Amir finished with 2-27. Shahid Afridi got the Man of the Match awards for his allround performance in the match.
Pakistan is to play India in a high voltage game at the same venue on Saturday while Bangladesh will face Australia in Bangalore two days later.