Imam, Rizwan guide Pakistan to an emphatic win in Super Four

By our correspondent
LAHORE: Pakistan opener Imam-ul-Haq and wicket-keeper batsman Mohammad Rizwan showcased a stellar performance, guiding Pakistan to a convincing seven-wicket victory over Bangladesh in the opening Super Four match of the Asia Cup held at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium on Wednesday.
Bangladesh faced a daunting task as they struggled to post a total of 193 runs (in 38.4 overs) on the scoreboard, setting Pakistan a target. Pakistan chased down the desired score with ease, reaching 194 for three in 39.3 overs, with a remarkable 63 balls to spare.
With this victory, the Asia Cup now heads to Sri Lanka for the final leg of the tournament.
Imam-ul-Haq, on his way to his 19th One-day International half-century, witnessed the departures of his teammates Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam. However, he found a dependable partner in Mohammad Rizwan. The duo built an impressive 85-run partnership for the third wicket before Imam fell in the 33rd over while at 78 runs. Imam’s innings included nine boundaries, four of which were maximums.
At that point, Pakistan stood at 159 for three, with Mohammad Rizwan and Agha Salman at the crease. Although Pakistan secured victory in style, Rizwan reached his 11th One-day International fifty before the conclusion. Rizwan remained unbeaten at 63, facing 79 balls and hitting seven fours and a six, while Agha Salman contributed 12 not out, ensuring a comfortable win for the green-clad team.
Pakistan’s openers, Fakhar and Imam, initiated their chase cautiously, particularly against Bangladesh’s Taskin Ahmed and Shoriful Islam, who bowled with precision. The pace of the game was disrupted for approximately 18 minutes when one of the floodlight poles went out. After the players returned to the field following the restoration of the floodlights, Pakistan’s batters managed a few boundaries, but the scoring remained relatively slow. Fakhar was dismissed LBW for 20 runs off 31 balls, including three boundaries, when the score reached 35.
Captain Babar Azam joined Imam in the middle, but his innings was unsettled, and he was clean bowled by Taskin after scoring 17 runs from 22 balls. By the 16th over, Pakistan had reached 74 for two after losing Fakhar and Babar.
Following the departures of Fakhar and Babar, the responsibility for securing the victory rested on Imam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Rizwan, who guided Pakistan to their eventual triumph.
Imam-ul-Haq felt heappy to have play a responsible innings for the team. He said: “I would say not one of my fluent innings. We thought it was going to be a good batting wicket but it was seaming around so we were surprised. But I have worked on my back foot game against spinners and I am happy with that.
“[On trying to score quicker for NRR] We discussed about it and we had a plan. We thought we can just chase in 36 overs and intentions were clear about it. We thought we had the chance and we were fortunate enough to close the match as early as possible. [On the pacers] They are remarkable and I just want them to bowl this way for the next two months,” he added.
Taskin Ahmed, Shoriful Islam, and Mehidy Hasan Miraz each claimed one wicket for Bangladesh.
The Bangladeshi innings got off to a shaky start, and they found themselves in a precarious position early on. However, they leaned on the experience of their dependable duo, Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim, to stabilize their innings.
Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan termed their loss to their ordinary play he said: “We lost early wickets in the start and we played some ordinary shots. On a wicket like this we shouldn’t lose four wickets in the first ten overs, but it happens.
“Our partnership was good, thought we needed to bat 7-8 more overs. Very poor batting display on a surface like this but we have to move on to the next one. They are the no.1 team and these are the reasons. They have three world class bowlers who are making things easier for them.
“We have been doing well in the bowling department but batting is a bit hot and cold. We need to be more consistently. I thought our three seamers bowled brilliantly. Like Pakistan, our seamers have been bowling very well in the last couple of years. But unfortunately on a pitch like this you can’t get wickets unless batters make mistakes. [On playing in SL] When I played in LPL, pitches were a bit slow, wickets were a little up and down and that should help us. So hopefully we will do well in Colombo,” said the Bangladesh captain.
Bangladesh before losing all of their wickets in 38.4 overs gathered 193 runs. At one point, Bangladesh lost their fourth wicket with just 47 runs on the scoreboard, but Shakib and Mushfiqur managed to rebuild the innings, steadily resisting Pakistan’s bowling attack. The pair put together an impressive 100-run partnership for the fifth wicket, displaying resilience and determination.
Shakib notched up his 54th ODI half-century, taking 57 balls to reach this milestone. His innings of 53 runs included seven boundaries. Meanwhile, Mushfiqur Rahim continued to hold his ground at the other end and completed his 46th half-century before going on to score 64 runs. Their partnership was broken by Faheem Ashraf’s bowling.
Shamim Hossain (16), who joined Mushfiqur at the crease, added 27 valuable runs alongside him before becoming the first victim of Iftikhar Ahmed.
Haris Rauf, for his exceptional performance, secured the prized wicket of Mushfiqur, who scored 64 runs from 87 balls with five boundaries to his name. Taskin Ahmed was the next to fall, also at the hands of Haris Rauf.
With a final contribution of 12 runs, Afif’s innings was cut short by Naseem Shah, who then wrapped up Bangladesh’s innings by clean bowling Shoriful Islam in the same over.
Pakistan’s bowling attack had an excellent start, despite losing the toss. They managed to disrupt the Bangladeshi lineup with four quick wickets in the early overs. Naseem Shah set the tone by taking the wicket of Mehidy Hasan Miraz on just the second ball of the second over, dismissing him for a duck. Shaheen Shah Afridi added to the pressure by taking Litton Das’s wicket (20), while Haris Rauf accounted for Mohammad Naim and Towhid Hridoy.
Shakib and Mushfiqur’s partnership was a crucial turning point for Bangladesh, but Pakistan’s early wickets set the stage for an exciting contest. In terms of team changes, Pakistan made one adjustment, with Faheem Ashraf replacing Mohammad Nawaz.

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