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Cricket: Pakistan coast to victory despite Shakib

Pakistan coast to victory despite ShakibPakistan 212 for 3 (Butt 74, Bazid 51) beat Bangladesh 210 (Shakib 108, Sohail 3-30, Gul 3-48) by seven wickets

Shakib Al Hasan tried his best to lift Bangladesh, but his single-handed efforts - 108 and 1 for 34 - couldn't inspire an otherwise woeful team as Pakistan equalled their most successful streak in ODIs, winning their tenth in a row to take a 4-0 lead in the five-match series. Shakib's innings lifted Bangladesh from a dire 109 for 8 to a respectable 210, but Pakistan's top order barely broke a bead of sweat in knocking off the runs, achieving the target with seven wickets and 5.3 overs to spare.

Shakib gave Bangladesh a fighting chance, but the game was settled when Butt and Akmal blitzed 97 for the first wicket in less than 17 overs. Both had scored hundreds in the previous game, and the good form showed as both oozed confidence, caressing fours through the off side and flicking wristily to the midwicket and square-leg boundaries whenever the bowlers erred even marginally.

Bangladesh had one opportunity to break the stand before it had reached dangerous proportions, but Mahmudullah made a mess of a chance at extra cover when Butt drove airily at Shahadat Hossain. Butt had made 16 in a total of 25, and he made Bangladesh - and Hossain - pay dearly in his next over, creaming three glorious drives through the off side, two of which found the boundary. Akmal then joined the party, flicking the last ball of that over - which leaked 15 - for four, and then belting Mashrafe Mortaza for two more fours. Fifteen more came off that over, and after nine, Pakistan had sped to 65.

Mohammad Ashraful was forced to turn to spin in the tenth over, and while the slow bowlers reduced the boundaries, both openers milked singles and twos, with the occasional boundary ensuring that the run-rate stayed above a run a ball. Akmal lofted Shakib over long-on for the first six of the match in the 13th over, but fell while trying to repeat the stroke four overs later.

The arrival of Bazid Khan significantly slowed the scoring-rate, as he struggled to get the ball off the square against the slow bowlers, giving Bangladesh a chance to regroup. His first 23 deliveries fetched just two runs, and also led to Butt losing his patience and his wicket, dashing down the pitch for a non-existent single.

The excitement for the crowd dried up as Mohammad Yousuf joined Bazid - there was a 67-ball boundary-drought at one stage - but Bazid finally broke the shackles in emphatic fashion, blasting Mahmudullah over midwicket for six, and gradually grew in confidence thereafter. Yousuf, meanwhile, played a typically fluent innings, guiding the ball into the gaps, cutting and flicking with characteristic elegance, and scoring at a fair clip despite the lack of fours and sixes. The asking-rate was always within control, and the result was a foregone conclusion long before Yousuf swept Abdur Razzak to seal the deal.

That Pakistan required 44.3 overs with the bat was itself a surprise, for at one stage it appeared the game would be over before the artificial lights came into play. After winning the toss on a hot and sunny afternoon, and on what looked like a flat pitch, Bangladesh made a complete hash of ideal batting conditions. Umar Gul struck twice in his first over, inducing edges from Junaid Siddique and Aftab Ahmed, while Mohammad Asif - playing his first international match in nearly six months - had Tamim Iqbal cutting straight to point. Ten for 3 became an even more depressing 16 for 4 soon after Shakib walked in, as Mohammad Ashraful became another victim of Gul's nagging line around off.

Shakib, coming off a fine 75 in the third ODI in Lahore, continued from where he had left off, gauging the pace of the pitch in a trice. Gul was cut and pulled for two fours in three balls while Asif was creamed through the covers.

Through the early part of his innings, though, it seemed his resistance would just be a minor irritant for a marauding Pakistan, as they knifed through the rest of the batting. Sohail Khan helped himself to a couple of wickets, while Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Malik took a wicket apiece as well.

Mortaza, though, turned out to be an excellent foil for Shakib. Where other top-order batsmen had thrown it away, Mortaza showed fine temperament, turning the strike over and allowing Shakib the luxury of a solid partner. The first signs of a significant partnership came when Gul returned for a second spell. Shakib pulled him crisply and then struck him through extra cover in the same over - the 33rd - scoring 12 off it, the most expensive of the innings. Fawad Alam's harmless left-arm spin was milked away for ones and twos, while Malik's offspin met a similar fate as well. Never hurried in attack or defence, Shakib finally got to a richly deserved hundred in the 47th over, and the 97 he added with Mortaza was the highest ninth-wicket stand for Bangladesh in ODIs. That incredible rearguard effort gave Bangladesh some hope; sadly for them, though, Pakistan's top order showed just how badly Bangladesh had bungled earlier in the afternoon.



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