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Alam, Afridi shoot Pakistan into Asia Cup final

March 4, 2014

MIRPUR, Bangladesh (AP) — Fawad Alam and Shahid Afridi bludgeoned half-centuries and blasted defending champion Pakistan into the Asia Cup final with a record rundown win against Bangladesh on Tuesday.

Bangladesh posted 326-3, its highest score in one-day internationals, but couldn’t prevent Pakistan from achieving its biggest run chase in ODIs, reaching 329-7 with a ball to spare.

Bangladesh appeared to be choking Pakistan to defeat until Afridi smashed seven sixes and two fours in a 25-ball 59. Then Alam cut loose to finish with 74 off 70 balls, falling with one run needed and two balls left.

Umar Akmal hit the winning runs straight away, a four to the midwicket boundary, to set up a final against Sri Lanka on the same ground on Saturday.

“I tried my level best to perform well ... it’s my type of situation and I had the license,” Afridi said after Bangladeshi hearts were broken at Sher-e-Bangla Stadium .

“I was confident that 10-10 1/2 an over was possible, and I knew if I slog I will hit it because it was a very good pitch.”

The record chase surpassed Pakistan’s previous best of 322-6 in 2007 against India at Mohali.

Afridi walked in with Pakistan still needing 102 runs off the last 52 balls, and sent the first ball he faced for a six over the long-on fence. The third ball also flew out. As did the fifth, eighth and ninth in the same over off experienced left-arm spinner Shakib Al Hasan. In nine balls, Afridi was up to 35. His 50 was the second fastest in ODIs, off 18 deliveries.

“When Afridi plays like that ... there was very little we can do,” Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim said.

Afridi was run out with Pakistan needing 33 off 19 balls.

Of Afridi, captain Misbah-ul-Haq said, “Everybody knows the kind of player he is when he is in full swing and nobody can stop him.”

Alam, playing his first ODI in three and a half years, was also run out, but by then Pakistan was on the brink of victory. Alam twice lofted left-arm spinner Abdur Razzaq for sixes in the 48th over.

Afridi and Alam overshadowed a century by opener Ahmed Shehzad, who provided a solid start of 97 with opening partner Mohammad Hafeez (52), and added 105 with Alam for the fourth wicket.

Shehzad hit a dozen boundaries and a six in his 123-ball knock before he was yorked by Razzaq’s fuller delivery for 103.

Earlier, Anamul Haque pulled four sixes and six fours in his 132-ball 100, the second of his career, while Imrul Kayes (59), Mominul Haque (51) and Mushfiqur (51 not out) also hammered half-centuries for Bangladesh against erratic bowling.

Shakib, returning to the side after a three-match ban for an offensive gesture, gave the innings an impetus with a rapid 44 off only 16 balls at the end.

The total surpassed Bangladesh’s previous best ODI score of 320-8 against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo five years ago.

Pakistan suffered a big loss when umpire Johan Cloete barred left-arm spinner Abdul Rehman from bowling after he delivered his first three balls above waist high at Imrul. Rehman had figures of 0-0-8-0.

Pakistan could not recover from Rehman’s setback in the 11th over as Anamul and Imrul — playing his first ODI in two years — put on a 150-run opening stand off 172 balls. That stand allowed Bangladesh to plunder 121 runs off the last 10 overs.

Shakib, one of the five changes made by Bangladesh, and Mushfiqur put on 77 runs off a mere 34 deliveries and ace offspinner Saeed Ajmal, who conceded only nine runs in his first six overs, was punished for 52 in his next four.

Tuesday’s result made the last two round-robin matches academic: India vs. Afghanistan on Wednesday, and Sri Lanka-Bangladesh on Thursday.

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