LONDON: Pakistan thrashed Bangladesh by 94 runs thanks to prolific displays from centurion Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam and a stunning six-wicket haul from young pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi here at Lord’s on Friday.
But despite the emphatic victory – their fourth successive in the World Cup – Pakistan crashed out of the World Cup with New Zealand making it to the semi-finals because of a superior run-rate.
Friday saw Pakistan at their best as Imam-ul-Haq hit a run-a-ball 100 and Babar Azam posted a fluent 96 to help them pile up 315-9, quite a sizeable total on a Lord’s wicket that wasn’t an easy surface to bat on.
Then Shaheen Shah Afridi produced the best spell of his international career as he ripped through the Bangladesh batting line-up with 6-35, the best ever figures by a Pakistani bowler in World Cup history.
Shaheen, 19, took the key wickets of Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal and Liton Dias and his lethal spell meant that Bangladesh were never really in contention. In the end, they were bowled out for 221 in 44.1 overs.
Pakistan’s big win was sweet revenge of their stunning World Cup defeat against Bangladesh at the 1999 World Cup in England, which was the only time the two teams had played each other in the tournament’s history.
Earlier, Pakistan decided against making a miracle bid and qualify for the semi-finals.
The Pakistanis won a much-needed toss to stay in the hunt for qualification. They needed to put a huge total, something in the vicinity of 450, to have any chance of qualifying for the last four.
Pakistan took the safe approach and were only able to accumulate 315-9 despite a run-ball 100 from opener Imam and a sparkling 96 from Babar, who became the highest run-getter for Pakistan in a World Cup. Imad Wasim posted a 26-ball 43. He hit the only six of the Pakistani innings.
Imam hit seven fours in his seventh ODI ton while Babar had 11 boundaries in his 98-ball 96. But Pakistan, who needed to win the match by a whopping margin to achieve a better run-rate than New Zealand in a bid to earn a semi-final spot, never showed any intent to go for it.
Pakistan needed a daring approach to have any chance of reaching the last four. But as usual, they were unable to think out of the box.
They decided to retain the same line-up which meant that struggling opener Fakhar Zaman had to face Bangladesh’s spinner Mehidy Hasan. Pakistan had the option of bringing in pinch-hitter Asif Ali but decided against it. It was clear that instead of capitalizing on their slim chance, Pakistan were keen to just win the match in order to finish an otherwise disappointing World Cup campaign on a high note.
Facing an insurmountable target, Pakistan needed to bat like they were playing a T20 game to get to a Test match like score. Instead they started off as if Friday’s game was a Test match. They took just one run from the first nine balls. They were 18 after 35 balls. Fakhar, supposedly the biggest pinch-hitter in the line-up, struggled miserably against the spinners and was finally put out of his misery by medium pacer Mohammad Saifuddin. He fell trying to slice the ball only to get caught by Mehidy for just 13 from 31 balls.
However, Babar Azam was a different story. The inform number three hit 11 sweetly-timed fours and was unlucky to miss what would have been his second World Cup ton, falling for 96 to Saifuddin.
Babar walked in when Pakistan were 23-1 in 7.2 overs having just lost Fakhar. His effortless batting was a treat for the fans and was the prime reason why even Imam got into his element. Together the two put on 157 runs for the second wicket. It was way short of what Pakistan needed but was sufficient enough to put them on their innings on right track
In the process, Babar broke yet another record when he surpassed the legendary Javed Miandad as the highest run-getter in a World Cup. Miandad had amassed 437 runs from nine World Cup matches in the 1992 edition of the tournament in Australia and New Zealand. Miandad scored five fifties in the World Cup, playing a key role in Pakistan’s title-winning campaign.
Babar, 24, finished the World Cup with 474 runs from eight matches (Pakistan’s game against Sri Lanka was washed out) at an average of 59.25. He scored a century (101 not out against New Zealand) and three fifties in the tournament.
He was lucky to be dropped at 57 but was unable to make the most of the reprieve, falling four runs short of his hundred. After having hit two successive boundaries, Babar went for another but missed a Yorker from Saifuddin. The umpire thought he was out but Babar went for a review, which turned out to be a bad call.
Imam, meanwhile, completed his first hundred of the tournament before falling in a bizarre manner – hit wicket – to Mustafizur Rahman.
Veteran batsman Mohammad Hafeez, probably playing his last ODI for Pakistan, made a 25-ball 27 before once again throwing his wicket away with a gentle sweep off his pads that went straight into the safe hands of Shakib Al Hasan.
Skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed had to leave the field retired hurt after being hit on the elbow at the non-strikers end. Wahab Riaz fell cheaply to Saifuddin while Mustafizur scalped Shadab Khan with a stunning catch off his own bowling. Mustafiz finished with a five-wicket haul to become the highest wicket-taker in the tournament with 20 wickets.