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    T20 WC: Pakistan survive Ashraful scare

    Mohammad Ashraful nearly pulled off a miracle for Bangladesh.

    Gros Islet, St Lucia: Both Salman Butt and Kamran Akmal scored 73 and also shared a breezy 141-run opening stand to guide defending champions Pakistan to a 21-run victory over Bangladesh in the opening Group A match of the Twenty20 cricket World Cup on Saturday.

    Pakistan rode on Butt ((73 off 46) and Akmal's (73 off 55) top-order exploits to pile up a competitive 172 for three after skipper Shahid Afridi won the toss and elected to bat in the slow Beausejour Stadium.

    Chasing the score, Bangladesh found themselves at the backfoot from the beginning, losing two early wickets but Mohammad Ashraful (65 off 49) and captain Shakib Al Hasan (47 off 31) kept them in the hunt with a quickfire 63-ball 91-run third wicket partnership.

    Comeback man Mohammad Sami was the pick of the Pakistani bowlers with three wickets for 29 runs while he was ably supported by pace partner Mohammad Aamir (2/16) from the other end.

    Defending the total, young left-arm pacer Aamir gave Pakistan the breakthrough in the first over, getting the wicket of Imrul Kayes caught by Misbah. Tamim Iqbal (19 off 18) too did not last long as he hit one straight back to off-spinner Mohammad Hafeez off his own bowling.

    Ashraful and Shakib played sensibly with occasional hits to the fence to keep Bangladesh in the hunt.

    But it was not be their day as needing approximately 10-an-over, both Ashraful and Shakib gave away their wickets in search of quick runs to eventually fell short by 21 runs.

    Needing 53 of the last five overs, a tired Shakib was caught at long off by Umar Akmal off Mohammad Sami and then Aamer dig the final nail in Bangladesh's coffin, getting dangerman Ashraful caught behind.

    Sent into field, Bangladesh's plan to approach the match with five specialised spinners backfired as not a single bowler got reprieve from Butt and Akmal's onslaught as Pakistan notched up the highest total of the tournament so far, that too on a slow Beausejour Stadium pitch.

    Both Butt and Akmal were at their destructive best as they hit as many as 16 fours and three sixes between them.

    The left-hander was the aggressive among the two as he accounted for eight boundaries and two sixes. Akmal too matched his partner stroke by stroke as he hit equal number fours but only had six to his credit.

    With Pakistan's hammering showing no signs of relenting, Shakib came up double strike to somewhat put the brakes on the run flow.

    Shakib broke the opening partnership against the run of the mill when he had Akmal caught off a full toss by Abdur Razaq, but not before the Pakistani wicketkeeper notched up his career-best Twenty20 score.

    The left-arm spinner then got the better of Shahid Afridi (9) as the Pakistan captain ballooned another full toss straight to Mahmudullah at short third-man.

    Butt too perished soon in search of quick runs in the with Shafiul disturbing his timbers.

    Abdul Razzaq (6 off 5) and Misbah-ul-Haq (8 off 5) remained as the two unbeaten batsmen for Pakistan.

    Shakib was the pick of the Bangladeshi bowlers with figures of two for 27 while pacer Safiul Islam accounted for one victim, giving away 25 runs off his four overs.

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