Bangladesh: Young wicketkeeper-batsman Umar Akmal hit a scintillating century and played the role of a saviour to perfection as he lifted Pakistan to a competitive 248 for eight in their Asia Cup match against Afghanistan at Fatullah on Thursday.
Akmal smashed 102 off 89 balls after Afghanistan won the toss and reduced Pakistan to 117 for six inside 30 overs on a sluggish pitch at the Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium
Akmal reached his three-figure mark with a huge six in the penultimate ball of the innings. The 23-year-old, who scored 74 off 72 against Sri Lanka in the last match, clobbered three sixes and seven boundaries while taking Pakistan to recovery from a precarious position.
Opener Ahmed Shehzad (50) contributed with a half-century and along with Sharjeel Khan got Pakistan off to a fine start, compiling 55 runs for the opening wicket before the former was scalped for 25 off 37 balls, including two fours and a six.
Next batsman Mohammad Hafeez (10) joined hands with Shehzad but the duo could only add 23 runs before Mirwais Ashraf sent Hafeez back to the pavilion. Shehzad's departure triggered a mini collapse and from 89 for two, Pakistan slumped to 117 for six. They lost four wickets for mere 28 runs on the board.
The Asia Cup-debutants removed Sohaib Maqsood (13), skipper Misbah-ul-Haq (0) and allrounder Shahid Afridi (6) to put Pakistan in a spot of bother. While leg-spinner Samiullah Shenwari cleaned up Shehzad, who hit seven fours in his half-century. Misbah was unlucky to be run-out without facing a ball, and Afridi missed a slog only to find his off-stump uprooted by pacer Dawlat Zadran, sending the Afghanistan camp in jubilation.
But Akmal continued with his good form as he took Pakistan to a respectable total. For the seventh wicket, Akmal added 60 runs with Anwar Ali (21 off 36 balls) to calm down nerves in the Pakistan dressing room and followed it with a 50-run stand with Umar Gul (15).