Monday, April 14, 2008

Pakistan winning the series

Not many sights in cricket are as uplifting as Bangladesh on the hunt. When they are in the game, when they have a sniff, there is just so much to celebrate: the joy of an impending underdog upset, the ebullience with which their batsmen, physically so small, go about playing such a big game. Conversely, there are also few sights as deflating as Bangladesh fluffing it up.

That is what they did today, for they were in the chase for much of it, the flame only really dying out when Shahid Afridi struck twice in an over very late on. Until then, their batsmen had chased so audaciously that you couldn't help but admire it. Tamim Iqbal's beautifully upright strokeplay, Aftab Ahmed's madcap improvisation and Shakib Al Hasan's handy mixture of both deserved more than the narrow loss, but here at last was some spine.

Jamie Siddons, Bangladesh's coach, drew some positives from Faisalabad, so naturally you would expect him to draw some more from here. Not quite. "Yeah I guess there were some, but there were negatives too, like we let them score over 300 again," he hesitantly concluded afterwards. "Two positives are that we got our highest score against Pakistan and our highest against major opposition. So things are starting to come together in that sense. Our batting is getting together well. Sides have to make 280-plus against us now to feel safe."

The real regret, you suspect, was that the wounds were again self-inflicted. The run-outs of Tamim and Mohammad Ashraful, and Aftab reverse-sweeping once too often were game-breaking moments, handed to a nervy Pakistan on a plate with free condiments to boot. Shoaib Malik all but acknowledged that Bangladesh's lack of experience in such run-chases played against them as much as Pakistan's bowling.


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