Bangladesh’s poor batting gives Pakistan easy win in 2nd T20
It might not matter this sort of game is worlds removed from anything Pakistan will have thrown at them in the upcoming T20 World. The conditions will be different, the pressure higher, the tension sharper. They will be content to draw comfort from snapping back into the team who put these performances series in, series out for the best part of the last three years, and hope this represents a return to that form. For today, just as it was yesterday, an unchanged Pakistan kept Bangladesh on a leash right throughout the first innings, the below-par 136 the visitors cobbled together never once looking like it might be enough.
And while Ahsan Ali did fell early - he has time to add consistency and match-awareness to his game - Pakistan knew exactly what to do next. Babar Azam and Mohammad Hafeez combined for an unbroken 131-run partnership that took them through to the finish with 20 balls to spare. Hafeez registered a half-century that should do his chances of attaining an extended run in the T20I side no harm, while Babar Azam bounced back from a duck in the first game to finish unbeaten on 66.
Batting first on a greener wicket as compared to Friday's, Tamim Iqbal’s lone hand of resistance was the only thing holding Bangladesh's innings together. Shaheen Afridi ensured there would be no repeat of a stand between the openers, snaring Mohammad Naim for a first-ball duck. Mahedi Hasan, coming into the side off the back of a stellar BPL, nicked off to Mohammad Hasnain soon after, while Shadab Khan got a slightly fortuitous lbw to remove Liton Das that withstood a review from the batsman.
Tamim, meanwhile, was batting on a slightly different surface, the kind the groundstaff hoped they had produced. Without ever really upping the scoring rate, he never once appeared threatened by Pakistan's bowling attack in the manner his team-mates were. Even the acceleration at the end was instigated by the opener when he brought up his fifty by tonking Shadab to deep cover before crunching two more fours in the over as Bangladesh made a late surge. He was tiring as a direct hit sent him back in the 18th over before Haris Rauf, who put in another audition as perhaps Pakistan's most consistently quick limited-overs bowler, removed captain Mahmudullah in the final over.
Bangladesh might have hoped to make it scrappy once more when a struggling Ahsan failed to get off the mark off his first six balls. The lack of experience showed as he lashed out on the seventh, only succeeding in skying it to mid-off. With just six runs scored off ten balls at that point, it appeared Pakistan would be made to work hard for their win once more.
However, it didn't work out that way. Most importantly, because Babar was still around to anchor the chase, and even as Hafeez took his time settling in, Babar kept the scoreboard ticking over regularly from the other end, removing any pressure the 39-year-old might have felt. When Hafeez did come into his own, Babar was content to pass the strike over to him. In the end, it was the veteran who brought up his half-century first, and finished as the top-scorer with an unbeaten 67.
Amid the flair of the chase and the ordinariness of Bangladesh's performance, it may be easy to lose sight of what set up the win in the first place. Pakistan chose to stick with the bowling attack that had brought dividends in the first game, and the wicket off Shaheen's second ball suggested they were up for the fight once more. The biggest positive will be Hasnain's vastly improved performance - his lack of control on Friday was one of the few blots on an otherwise spotless bowling effort - will please Waqar Younis, the bowling coach, plenty. He ended up being the pick of the lot, accounting for Mahedi and Afif Hossain, to finish with figures of 4-0-20-2.
Tomorrow on Sunday the 3rd and last T20I will be held at the same venue.