Former champions Pakistan have kept alive their slender chances of making the semi-finals of the 50-overs World Cup with a comprehensive seven-wicket victory against Bangladesh.
Electing to bat, Bangladesh could never really recover from a top order collapse and posted a modest 204 before being all out in the 46th over at the Eden Gardens.
Pakistan’s three-pronged pace attack impressed with the new ball and were equally effective in the death overs with only Mahmudullah (56) managing a half-century for Bangladesh.
Openers Fakhar Zaman (81), returning after a knee injury kept him out for five matches, and Abdullah Shafique (68) combined in a 128-run stand to set up a victory that came with 17.3 overs to spare in a major net run-rate boost.
Babar Azam’s men moved to fifth place in the points table, two points behind Australia having played a match more, with games against New Zealand and England to come.
“We are trying to win our remaining matches and see where we stand,” Babar said. “This win hopefully gives us confidence in the coming matches.”
With one win in their seven Bangladesh are the first team to be eliminated.
“We are trying to force things but it isn’t working,” Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan said. “We have to perform together, which is not happening. We are looking for answers but aren’t getting them.”
Pakistan coach Grant Bradburn had rued how lack of swing in India had defanged the pace attack, usually their strong suit, in the tournament.
Bradburn must have been pleased as the pace trio of Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Wasim and Haris Rauf collectively claimed eight of the 10 Bangladesh wickets in Tuesday’s match.
Left-arm quick Afridi (3-23) struck with his fifth delivery, trapping Tanzid Hasan lbw for his 100th ODI wicket. He is the fastest bowler to do so, achieving it in his 51st game, surpassing Australia’s Mitchell Starc, who required a game more.
Najmul Hossain Shanto fell in Afridi’s next over and Bangladesh slumped to 3-23 after Rauf (2-36) had Mushfiqur Rahim caught behind in the sixth over.
Litton Das (45) and Mahmudullah arrested the slide but the flourish Bangladesh needed did not materialise.
Skipper Shakib Al Hasan made 43 but Wasim claimed three wickets in his last seven deliveries to hasten Bangladesh’s collapse.
Replacing Imam-ul-Haq at the top of the order, Fakhar found his form as he and Abdullah started dictating terms right from the start.
A ball after Abdullah brought up his fifty with a single off Taskin Ahmed, Fakhar reached his own in a more spectacular manner by hitting the pacer over his head for a six.
Off-spinner Mehidy Hasan Miraz (3-60) trapped Abdullah lbw, a decision that was upheld after the batter challenged it.
Babar gifted his wicket and Fakhar, who smacked seven sixes, fell short of his hundred but Pakistan’s victory was merely a matter of time by then.