Asia Cup 2016: Bangladesh clinch thriller to qualify for final
A composed cameo from Mahmudullah and some terrible fielding from Pakistan ensured that Bangladesh reached the finals of the Asia Cup for only the second time in their history. The 5-wicket win does not reveal how close the contest was at the Shere Bangla Stadium in Mirpur.
Under-fire Shahid Afridi won the toss and predictably chose to bat first which was in sync with their perennial chasing woes. Anwar Ali came in place of the spinning all-rounder Mohammad Nawaz while Arafat Sunny and Tamim Iqbal replaced the injured Mustafizur Rahman and Nurul Hasan for the hosts.
However, Pakistan’s batting got off to a horrendous start as the Bangladeshi bowlers produced an impressive display. Backed by a vociferous crowd, Taskin Ahmed started proceedings with a probing over. Al-Amin Hossain reaped the rewards by getting rid of Khurram Manzoor with an unplayable delivery.
After a couple of big hits, Sharjeel Khan played a cross-batted heave and was castled by Arafat Sunny. Skipper Mashrafe Mortaza rotated his bowlers admirably and tightened the screws around the Pakistanis.
Mohammad Hafeez struggled to put bat to ball and his painful stay was ended by Mortaza. But, the decision raised eyebrows after Ball-Tracker showed that the delivery was missing the stumps by a considerable margin.
Umar Akmal succumbed to the pressure maintained as the dot-balls led to a typical rash shot. Pakistan were in dire straits at 28/4 from 8.2 overs and the match was slipping away quickly.
But, Shoaib Malik and Sarfaraz Ahmed combined to produce a stirring partnership which restored parity. The duo put on 70 runs from just 40 balls as the momentum shifted drastically. The reason behind their effectiveness was due to their running between the wickets and punishment of the loose balls without mercy.
Against the run of play, Malik holed out to mid-wicket to provide an opening for Bangladesh. Afridi followed suit after failing to connect properly which led to delirious cheers from the stands.
Sarfaraz continued on his merry ways and reached a well deserved fifty. He went from strength to strength as Pakistan finished at a competitive 129/7 out of which 95 came in the last 10.
When the hosts came out to chase, their intent was clear. Tamim Iqbal and Soumya Sarkar went after the new-ball duo of Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Irfan. After a wristy pick-up shot for six, Iqbal perished to the gigantic Irfan.
Sabbir Rahman joined Sarkar and negated the Power-Play overs to set the ball rolling. Despite beating the bat on numerous occasions, Irfan could not pluck out another wicket. Afridi brought himself on during the seventh over itself and broke through when Rahman tried to dance down the track to a 101 KMPH slider.
Meanwhile, Anwar Ali was targeted relentlessly by Sarkar who seemed to be growing in confidence. A combination of inept fielding and lack of control with the ball led to a leakage of runs in the middle overs as Bangladesh were cantering.
Amir was back for his second spell and he did not disappoint. He knocked Sarkar over with a searing inswinger to offer a glimmer for his team. Another inspired bowling change worked wonders as Malik sent back Mushfiqur Rahim. But, replays showed that this was another terrible umpiring call.
The home team needed 40 off the last 5 as the nerves started to creep in. Despite Shakib’s wicket, Mahmudullah’s maximum and consecutive boundaries from Mortaza tilted the scales back in their favor.
Sami overstepped twice in the 19th over to compound Pakistan’s woes and Ali conceded the final runs as Bangladesh romped home in the end.
Brief Scores: Pakistan 129/7 (Sarfaraz 58*, Malik 41, Hossain 3-25); Bangladesh 131/5 from 19.1 overs (Sarkar 48, Mahmudullah 22*, Amir 2-26)
Result: Bangladesh won by 5 wicketsPublished 02 Mar 2016, 22:36 IST