Shahid Afridi smashed the second-fastest one-day international half-century and Ahmed Shehzad hit a ton to give Pakistan a three-wicket win over Bangladesh on Tuesday and a place in the Asia Cup final.
The 34-year-old, who hit two consecutive sixes to give Pakistan a one-wicket win over India on Sunday, was once again Pakistan’s savior as they chased down their highest-ever target of 327 in 49.5 overs in Dhaka.
Afridi overshadowed a brilliant 123-ball 103 by opener Ahmed Shehzad and a sedate 74 by Fawad Alam, who both set the tone for the chase, but it was the aggression of Afridi which helped Pakistan overcome tough resistance from the hosts.
Pakistan meet Sri Lanka in Saturday’s final.
Afridi, who went into bat with Pakistan needing 101 off 52 balls, smashed paceman Shafiul Islam to the boundary to reach his half-century off just 18 balls, one short of one-day cricket’s fastest-ever half-century by Sri Lanka’s Sanath Jayasuriya, made against Pakistan in Singapore in 1996.
He equaled his own record of the second fastest one-day half-century, set twice by him. He scored an 18-ball half-century during his 37-ball ton against Sri Lanka in Nairobi in 1996 and another 18-ball effort against the Netherlands in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 2002.
In all, Afridi hit seven sixes and two fours off just 25 balls.
Pakistan’s previous best run chase in a one-day international was 322-6 against India in Mohali in 2007.
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq praised Afridi as a “hero.”
“He’s really playing well and he’s cashing into his form, which is really good for us,” Misbah said. “Everybody knows the kind of player he is when he is in full swing and nobody can stop him.”
Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim admitted Afridi had snatched the game.
“When Afridi plays like that there was very little we can do. He took away the game,” Rahim said.
Before Afridi’s blitz, it was a remarkable turnaround for the hosts who suffered a shock upset defeat against new-comers Afghanistan in their second match on Saturday.
Bangladesh made several changes after their 32-run loss, the most prominent being all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan’s return after he was suspended for three matches over indiscipline.
That paid off as a revamped batting lineup led by Anamul Haque bettered Bangladesh’s previous highest-ever total of 320-8, made against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo in 2009.
Pakistan, too, got a solid 97-runs by the 21st over, with Mohammad Hafeez (52) and Shehzad in a punishing mood, but they were derailed by left-arm spinner Mominul Haque (2-37), who dismissed Hafeez and Sohaib Maqsood (2), while Shakib had captain Misbah for 4.
Shehzad completed his fifth one-day century, but was bowled by Abdur Razzak after hitting 12 fours and a six. Shehzad added 105 runs for the fourth wicket with Alam.
However, Alam and Afridi broke the hearts of a capacity home crowd after Bangladesh had been given a chance by their batsmen.
Anamul and Imrul Kayes (59) put on 150 for the opening stand and cashed onto some sloppy fielding and bowling by Pakistan.
Afridi went for 64 runs in his 10 overs, while paceman Mohammad Talha conceded 68 in seven and Umar Gul 76 in his 10.
However, it was the left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman, brought in as one of two changes to Pakistan’s team, who suffered the worst fate as he was suspended from the attack over dangerous bowling.