No luck for the host

The real turnaround was provided by the magical Shahid Afridi. Nobody knows how Afridi would perform on a given day. Much to Bangladesh’s chagrin, he turned up with more than 100 runs to be scored and polished them off in no time to leave the local fans in tears. By Arun Venugopal.

You only needed to observe the fluctuating noise-levels in the crowd at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium to understand where the Bangladesh-Pakistan game was heading. There was much ecstasy initially when Bangladesh's batters reaped runs, investing in some confident strokes.

Openers, Anamul Haque and Imrul Kayes, added 150 runs; it was Bangladesh’s best first-wicket partnership in quite sometime now. There was nary a dip in momentum as both batsmen kept at it. While there may have been a brief lull after their departures, Mominul Haq and skipper Mushfiqur Rahim took over.

The finishing touches were duly given by Shakib Al Hasan, who returned after a three-match ban. There was also a queer incident on view as left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman bowled three consecutive full-tosses above the waist and was barred from operating any further. Such an analysis — 0-0-8-0 — was hitherto unheard of. It’s a numerical joke that will possibly haunt him forever.

Ahmed Shehzad, one of Pakistan's most promising youngsters, piloted the team’s chase. There were also handy contributions from Mohammad Hafeez and Fawad Alam. But the real turnaround was provided by the magical Shahid Afridi. Nobody knows how Afridi would perform on a given day. Much to Bangladesh’s chagrin, he turned up with more than 100 runs to be scored and polished them off in no time to leave the local fans in tears. Later, when he was asked who his batting coach was, he replied: “No one.”

Misbah-ul-Haq was effusive in praise for Afridi. “When he's in form and performing well, especially with the bat, there’s no better proof than the kind of innings he has played in these last two games.

“Any kind of bowling attack, at any time, he can attack like this. So I think this is very big evidence, and this is one of his best innings.

“Ahmed Shehzad made a brilliant contribution, Hafeez gave a good start, and then Fawad Alam, the way he played and the way Umar Akmal finished the game, and Shahid Afridi of course, I think the thing you need to finish games, the sensible batting that you need, all of them combined and calculated very well.”

Sri Lanka v Afghanistan

The Sri Lanka-Afghanistan encounter was by far the most lopsided match in the tournament. After Afghanistan began well with the ball, Kumar Sangakkara and Angelo Mathews provided rescue-acts when they were most needed. In reply, Afghanistan crumbled without any resistance.

The team's coach, Kabir Khan, said it was a “journey of learning.”

“This is our fifth ODI (against a Test side), and obviously we are learning from each and every game. There are some top-quality bowling and batting and fielding we are facing, and I think we are learning, and responding to it. They are enjoying it as well, which is very good.

“We concentrated too much on Lasith and Mendis. We didn't want to give away too many wickets to them, unfortunately plan didn't work, Mendis got the wickets at the end. Boys coped, I think, okay against Lasith but not against Mendis. He’s just got too many varieties, it’s very difficult for first-timers to read them.”

Bangladesh v Sri Lanka

Later, in the last league game of the tournament, Bangladesh completed its winless competition after losing to Sri Lanka by three wickets. It’s an energy-sapping tussle on a slow wicket, and there were quite a few moments of oscillation before Angelo Mathews stepped in with the decisive punch. His finishing gave just about the perfect boost to Sri Lanka ahead of the final.

THE SCORES March 6

Bangladesh vs. Sri Lanka. Result: Sri Lanka won by three wickets.

Bangladesh 204 for nine in 50 overs (A. Haque 49, S. Rahman 39, N. Hossain 30, Mamhmudullah 30) lost to Sri Lanka 208 for seven in 49 overs (H. Thirimanne 33, A. Mathews not out 74, P. de Silva 44).

March 4

Bangladesh vs. Pakistan. Result: Pakistan won by three wickets.

Bangladesh 326 for three in 50 overs (A. Haque 100, I. Kayes 59, M. Haque 51, M. Rahin not out 51, S. Al Hasan not out 44) lost to Pakistan 329 for seven in 49.5 overs (A. Shehzad 103, M. Hafeez 52, F. Alam 74, S. Afridi 59).

March 3

Afghanistan vs. Sri Lanka. Result: Sri Lanka won by 129 runs.

Sri Lanka 253 for six in 50 overs (K. Perera 33, K. Sangakkara 76, D. Chandimak 26, A Mathews not out 45) beat Afghanistan 124 all out in 38.4 overs (A. Stanikzai 27, M. Nabi 37; T. Perera 3-29, A. Mendis 3-11).