Shahid Afridi's appointment as Pakistan captain in all formats of the game has so far failed to get approval from some of the country's cricketing greats, but his case is becoming compelling. The temperamental Pathan seems to be thriving in the hot seat if his recent batting displays are any indication. In the opening game of the Asia Cup against Sri Lanka, Afridi showed grit and restraint in compiling a battling 109, but his first one-day international century in five years was in vain.
Yesterday his second century in three games was rewarded with Pakistan's first ODI win this year. More important he seems to be restoring harmony to the dressing room. Afridi ensured the pyrotechnic were, for a change, on the field by smashing a 60-ball 124 as Pakistan scored their highest total in ODIs, 385 for seven. Despite Junaid Siddique's entertaining 97 and his 160-run partnership for the second wicket with Imrul Kayes, Bangladesh finished 139 runs short.
Afridi feels the result leaves Pakistan full of confidence ahead of their tour of England, where they play two Twenty20 matches and two Tests against Australia before meeting the home country in four Tests, two T20s and five ODIs. "As a captain you should perform well and set the example," Afridi, who tops the scoring charts in the tournament with 265 runs, said in the post-match television interview. "As a captain I am very happy [with the performance in the tournament]. The coaches did a great job with us and the boys performed really well. There are a few things to learn and definitely we will learn from our mistakes.
"We feel ready for the tour of England now. I know it is going to be tough, but myself and the coaches are really working hard and it will definitely give us some good results." Already out of the reckoning for a place in the final of the tournament after defeats against Sri Lanka and India, Pakistan had a point to prove. The longest day of the year (the summer solstice) seemed longer for Bangladesh as the Pakistan openers Shahzaib Hasan (50), playing only his second one-day international, and Imran Farhat (66) blunted the new-ball attack and laid the platform for Afridi's blitz.
The Pakistan captain, who holds the world record for the fastest century in ODIs, walked out to the pitch at the fall of the fourth wicket, with 176 on the board in 28.4 overs. He survived an optimistic first-ball lbw appeal and had seven from the first nine balls before cutting loose. The "Boom Boom" show began with a six over long-off and a pull to the mid-wicket fence off consecutive Suhrawadi Shuvo deliveries.
Fortune came to his aid, when he was on 32 from 26 balls, as Mashrafe Mortaza dropped a sitter running in from long-on. That miss proved very costly for Bangladesh as Afridi smashed a stunning 92 runs from his next 34 balls, smacking 18 of those deliveries for 15 fours and three sixes. He reached three figures from 53 balls - the second 50 coming from only 17 - and 92 of his 124 runs came from boundaries.
Umar Akmal (50) gave his skipper support in a 137-run partnership for the fifth wicket in only 15.4 overs. "I thought they got off to a great start," Shakib al Hasan, the Bangladesh captain, said in the post-match television interview. "Their two openers batted really well and on the other hand, our new-ball bowlers did not bowl in the right areas. * Compiled by Ahmed Rizvi