Pakistan extended their lead to 4 - 0 with one match remaining in the Bank Al-Falah Cup ODI series as they toppled Bangladesh's total of 210 with 33 balls to spare in Multan today. With one more match to go, they can now eye a full whitewash of this Bangladesh side that has been shaky ever since their world cup success in 2007.
For Bangladesh, it was a regular day at the office as their top order let them down yet again. On a ground where, before today's match, teams had won chasing three times out of four, Bangladesh
Shakib fought the lone battle for Bangladesh with a brilliant century.
captain Mohammad Ashraful chose to bat first after winning the toss. While there were hints of movement off the pitch in the early stages of the game, there was hardly anything in the track to suggest it would not be a batsman's paradise. Thus when Bangladesh lost Zunaed Siddique and Aftab Ahmed to tentative prods outside the off stump - both in the second over of the day to Umar Gul and without bothering the scorers - it all came down to the man in form, Tamim Iqbal, and his skipper to pull them out of the mess. Tamim, however, played one shot too many when he cut hard to Salman Butt at backward point in the next over to gift Mohammad Asif his first wicket on his come-back.
With the middle order exposed, it was upon Ashraful to finally take up some responsibility, but when he too perished, edging it to first slip off Gul, the game was virtually over. At that point, it would take a valiant effort from the rest of the batsmen to post a respectable total. The inexperience of Farhad Reza, Dhiman Ghosh and Mahmudullah Riyad showed as they played and missed and fell in short succession. It was not until Mashrafe Mortaza came in to bat, upon the fall of Abdur Razzak, that Shakib Al Hasan found an able partner.
At 109/8, Bangladesh looked well on track to get bundled out below 150, but if there is anything that they would take away from this series so far other than the brave chase that they put up in the 3rd ODI, it would have to be what came next. Mashrafe held down one end for his 38 off 67 deliveries, and Shakib kept the scoreboard ticking at the other end. He proved that his 75 in the previous match was no fluke by going all the way to score a century, his 108 coming off 120 balls. The inning was highlighted by 8 fours, and the strike rate of 90 is an indication of his dependence on ones and twos throughout the day. When he finally holed out to Fawad Alam at mid on in the ultimate over, Bangladesh were already past the 200 mark.
210 was never going to be enough on what was a good batting track - more so as time passed - and the Pakistani openers, Salman Butt and Kamran Akmal, carried on the good form to put on a partnership of 93 before Akmal mis-hit one to Mortaza off the bowling of - surprise surprise - none other than Man of the Match Shakib Al Hasan; and perhaps to let history repeat itself as far as big partnerships are concerned, Butt was run out by Razzak for 74 six overs later.
The inning then saw a pair consisting of experience and youth in the form of Mohammad Yousuf and Bazid Khan guide Pakistan to the verge of victory without too many bumps. When Bazid fell for 51, Pakistan were already on 199, and Fawad Alam hit the winning runs with a well timed square cut. Yousuf remained not out on 37.
Bangladesh will go back to the drawing boards trying to sort out their top and middle order crisis and look to pull off an upset in the last ODI of the series to avoid returning home empty handed. Pakistan, on the other hand, will be satisfied with the effort, and the focus will be on sweeping the series and testing the strength of their reserves.