Take away Shahid Afridi’s 49-run heist and this match could have been a close affair. Had the Pakistan skipper not dismissed Tamim Iqbal, centurion in his last game, Bangladesh could have backed themselves to make a match of what turned out to be a one-sided tie. Such is Afridi’s impact. One day he isn’t seen on the ground. The next day, you can’t keep him out of the action.
For all the talk of Pakistan’s unpredictability, they came so good at Eden Gardens that the result was a foregone conclusion before even Mohammad Amir rocked back Soumya Sarkar’s stumps. Men who mattered like opener Ahmed Shehzad and No 3 Mohammad Hafeez struck crucial fifties to give Pakistan a brilliant start in their opening game. Amir did make the ball talk, but it was Afridi’s 19-ball 49 with his patent blows that turned the screws on Bangladesh.
FIRE AND ICE
Afridi’s nonchalance hugely contrasts his power-packed shots. For example, he didn’t waste one second mourning what would have been his first half-century since June 3, 2012. He was a six short of surpassing his T20 international best -- 54 not out. But it was his unpredictable nature that gave Pakistan the impetus, after he promoted himself to No 4 once the top-order batsmen had laid the platform.
He took one ball --- a nudge towards midwicket for a single --- before going into overdrive. Next ball from Mashrafe Mortaza from around the stumps was pulled for four. That was enough to dent the Bangladesh captain’s confidence. His lap sweep for four off the next ball left Mortaza shaken and he tossed up the ball waist high. Afridi was primed for a drive but quickly adjusted to flick over square-leg for six.
That 18-run over summed up the disintegration of Bangladesh. Afridi trampled the bowlers, sparing none. Not only did he deposit the inexperienced Al-Amin Hossain on the first tier of the Eden clubhouse, he took on Arafat Sunny’s slow left-armers and Taskin Ahmed’s pace, leaving Bangladesh searching for options. Shakib Al Hasan was probably their last resort, but Afridi reserved his best for the all-rounder, smashing him through cover and going on one knee to hit a six.
Afridi could have gone back to his hotel after that innings. But with the crowd cheering for him, he couldn’t have ended the game without putting on a show with the ball as well, even if it involved some payback from Sabbir Rahman. After an expensive first over, Afridi slipped a straighter one that Tamim Iqbal tried to sweep but ended up hitting to Imad Wasim at deep square-leg. He showed it was his night once again as he removed Rahman with a quicker one that went with the arm. Trying to cut, Rahman found his bails disturbed.
And ‘Boom Boom’ Afridi was doing his showstopper act --- arms raised and smiling ear to ear.