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Pakistan win Title, Bangladesh win hearts!

Despite a great all round effort from Shakib-ul-Hasan, Bangladesh failed to conquer the Asia Cup as Pakistan kept their cool to clinch the title in a cliffhanger, here at Mirpur today. Chasing 237 to win, Bangladesh fell short by an agonizing two runs as the Pakistani bowlers held their nerves in a game that had everyone at the edge of their seats.

On one of the most historic days of Bangladesh cricket, the Bangla Tigers bowled with precision and fielded athletically to justify their place in the finals.

Chasing a gettable 237 to win, Bangladesh got off to a steady start with the openers adding 68 runs. Nazimuddin held fort at one end while Tamim Iqbal continued his good form by notching up his fourth consecutive fifty in the tournament. Tamim Iqbal (60) looked in sublime touch as he played delightful drives through the off side and crispy flicks through mid wicket. His effortless stroke-play was pleasing to the eye and reminded of a certain Saeed Anwar.

While Tamim kept the momentum going, Bangladesh lost wickets at the other end thanks to some wonderful catching from Younis Khan. Younis took a superb running catch in the deep to send back Nazimuddin (16) and then snapped up Jahurul Islam at slips. He also ended Tamim’s charge by pulling off a scorcher at short covers.

With the exit of Tamim, Pakistan clawed back into the game through their spinners. Shakib looked to rotate the strike but Nasir Hossain hit a block as he played out 18 dot balls in a row displaying the jitters of a big finals. Though Bangladesh lost momentum in the middle overs, Shakib and Nasir dug in to add 89 runs before Gul ended Nasir Hossain’s laborious effort.

Shakib, again, showed his class and constructed a beautiful 68 as he took on the Pakistan bowlers to get Bangladesh closer to the elusive title. He played with authority and had the bowlers on the ropes with his lusty hitting.

For Pakistan, the trio of Afridi, Hafeez and Ajmal was top draw as they squeezed the Bangladeshi batsmen to create the pressure that finally undid Bangladesh. Umar Gul bowled quick but it was Aizaz Cheema who bowled a controlled second spell to pick up three wickets to seal the game and title for Pakistan.

Earlier, Bangladesh came up with a sterling bowling effort to restrict Pakistan to 236/9 after winning the toss. The medium pacers bowled a tight line while the spinners choked the Pakistani batting line up.

The bowling was aptly helped by electrifying fielding from a young Bangladeshi side. The fielders dived to stop the runs, pouched sharp chances and effected run outs to squeeze out the Pakistanis.

Pakistan got off to a bad start as they lost Nasir Jamshid (9) early to Masrafe Mortaza. The early wicket led to a middle order collapse on a wicket that was tailor-made for the Bangladeshi spinners. Md. Hafeez (40) looked good for a big score but Younis Khan (1), Misbah-ul-Haq (13) and Hammad Azam (30) all departed after being stifled by some disciplined bowling and energetic fielding. Umar Akmal (30), however, fell to a dubious caught behind decision.

With Pakistan struggling, Afridi took advantage of the batting power-play and smashed a 22 ball 32. Afridi was in murderous mood and looked to unsettle the spinners before miscuing a full toss from Shakib.

After his departure Pakistan looked all set to be bundled out within 200 but a late surge from Sarfraz Ahmed and a horrible last over from Shahadat Hossain saw them go past the 230 mark. Sarfraz stuck in for an unbeaten 46 and added 58 runs with the tail while Shahadat gave away 19 in the last over that contained two no balls.

For Bangladesh, Razzak, Shakib and Mortaza bowled miserly and picked up two a piece that life difficult for the Pakistanis.

Though the Bangladeshis would be heart-broken with the result but this edition of the Asia Cup will be remembered as the tournament that elevated the Bangla Tigers from a group of boys to a league of men.

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