Babar Azam and Mohammad Hafeez during the second T20I against Bangladesh at Gaddafi stadium, in Lahore. (AP Photo)
Captain Babar Azam and recalled Mohammad Hafeez struck unbeaten half-centuries as Pakistan cruised to a nine-wicket victory over Bangladesh in the second Twenty20 on Saturday and kept alive its hopes of retaining the No. 1 ranking.
Pakistan could stay top if it completes a 3-0 clean sweep by winning the final Twenty20 of the three-match series on Monday.
Recalled 39-year-old Hafeez made an unbeaten 67 off 49 balls while No. 1-ranked Twenty20 batsman Babar remained not out on 66 as Pakistan eased to 137-1 with more than three overs to spare.
"The victory was necessary for us because we had lost the last two series," Babar said. "Hafeez played an outstanding inning, he struggled early on but later rotated the strike well and it helped us to win the game."
Both batsmen entertained a weekend crowd of around 20,000 at the Gaddafi Stadium with a splendid 131-run stand against a listless Bangladesh bowling attack.
Shafiul Islam was the lone successful bowler when he had Ahsan Ali caught at mid-off for a duck in his first over before Babar and Hafeez took charge. Bangladesh's disappointing performance was summed up when wicketkeeper Liton Das dropped Hafeez soon after he had reached his half-century.
Hafeez, who completed his half-century with two successive fours off Shafiul in the 13th over, struck nine fours and a six while Babar, who was out for zero on Friday in Pakistan's five-wicket win, hit seven boundaries and a six.
In the absence of the banned Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim, who pulled out of the tour due to security concerns, Bangladesh's top-order batsmen struggled for the second consecutive day as the side was restricted to 136-6.
"It was not an easy wicket to bat on, maybe today we were 25 runs shorts," Bangladesh coach Russell Domingo said. "They (Pakistan) are ranked No. 1 and we are No. 9 at the moment and there's a big difference between the two teams in terms of experience, in terms of skills and we have a long way to go to catch up with them."
Earlier, opening batsman Tamim Iqbal labored for 53 balls on his way to a top score of 65 before he was run out in the 18th over as the Bangladesh innings struggled to build any momentum against the Pakistan pace attack.
The inexperienced pace trio of Mohammad Hasnain (2-20), Shaheen Afridi (1-22) and Haris Rauf (1-27) combined to bowl 12 overs, conceding only 69 runs between them and sharing four wickets.
Captain Mahmudullah, who won his second successive toss, surprisingly didn't put himself in the top order while another experienced batsman, Soumya Sarkar, came in after the fall of Tamim's wicket with only 14 balls left in the innings.
Bangladesh will round out the first phase of the Pakistan tour on Monday. The team didn't want to stay in Pakistan for more than a week due to security concerns.
The tour was only finalized last week when Bangladesh agreed to split the Twenty20 series and the two ICC World Test Championship matches into three phases after the countries' national cricket boards reached consensus in Dubai during a meeting facilitated by International Cricket Council chairman Shashank Manohar.
Bangladesh will return for the first test in Rawalpindi from Feb. 7-11. After a break of almost two months, Bangladesh will play an ODI and the second test in Karachi on April 3-9.
Late last year, Sri Lanka also split its tour to Pakistan into two phases when it played a Twenty20 series in Lahore and then returned in December for two test matches in Rawalpindi and Karachi, staying in Pakistan for 16 days.