In the end, it was disappointment for Bangladesh. A fan in Marouane Fellaini wig sat despondent. A few others broke down. Their pain was understandable. They spent sleepless nights in the queue for a ticket and then braved the first Nor’wester of the season that delayed the start of the Asia Cup final by almost two hours. About 28,000 fans inside the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium and many millions outside expected an upset. But that was not to be.
India won the Asia Cup – their sixth continental triumph – because they were better than Bangladesh in all departments. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s nonchalance, after helping his side cross the line, attested India’s relaxed approach to the final.
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The captain didn’t even collect a stump after finishing things off with 20 not out off six balls. Just a handshake with his deputy Virat Kohli and he was done. Kohli held up his hands to acknowledge the dressing room before trudging off. It was just another day in office for the world’s best T20 side that now has a 10-1 winning record in the last 11 matches. Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza was right; it was a contest between No. 1 and No. 10.
Dhoni put the finishing touches and Kohli once again remained unbreachable. But this win was down to team effort with everyone contributing. Ashish Nehra yet again gave an early breakthrough after Bangladesh were sent in. R Ashwin was brilliant, brushing aside the hindrance of a wet ball and dismissing the dangerous Shakib Al Hasan when he was trying to take the attack to the opposition. And Jasprit Bumrah was simply outstanding, removing Tamim Iqbal upfront and stalling Mahmudullah’s charge at the death.
Mahmudullah, though, deserves a mention. For the fans, it was exhilaration to see him throw the kitchen sink at the Indian bowlers. They were entitled to the entertainment after all the pains they took to witness this contest.
As thunder broke, floodlights went off and darkness descended. The supporters switched on their mobile flashlights to illuminate the stadium. They got soaked in the rain but waited patiently for the match to start. It was a night when traffic stopped in Dhaka. And it was down to the fantastic drainage system of the ground and tireless ground staff that a truncated match – 15 overs per side – was played.
It looked like Bangladesh were bogged down by the weight of expectations. They started off timidly. But Mahmudullah were fearless. He came to the crease after the hosts had lost Mushfiqur Rahim and Mashrafe Mortaza in the same over. At 75/5 and with only three overs left, India were in firm control. Mahmudullah’s first shot of aggression was a fierce hit that reached the straight boundary before Nehra could even complete his follow through. Carnage started one ball later, when Hardik Pandya returned to complete his quota.
The first delivery was a low full-toss, and Mahmudullah cleared his front foot and hit it inside out to the cover fence. Pandya bowled length, Mahmudullah plonked his front foot forward and cleared the deep mid-wicket boundary.
The next delivery was played for a couple before Mahmudullah swung his bat again. This time, he went over the long-on fence. That 21-run over breathed life into Bangladesh’s innings. Bumrah ensured that the game didn’t slip out of India’s grasp.
Still Mahmudullah’s effort stood out. The 30-year-old middle-order batsman was Bangladesh’s World Cup hero last year with 365 runs in six matches including back-to-back hundreds.
Today, he remained not out on 33 off 13 balls. Such a clean striker of the ball, it’s strange that he bats so far down the order. The Bangladesh team management should have a rethink.
Dhawan finds form
India chased the victory target with clinical precision. Rohit Sharma was out early, edging an Al-Amin Hossain outswinger to the slip. But Shikhar Dhawan found his form on the big day. He took his time to get into the groove. But India had time on their side.
A 94-run second wicket partnership between Dhawan and Kohli set up the chase. They started to up the ante from the 11th over when Dhawan hit Shakib for back-to-back fours before sweeping offspinner Nasir Hossain to the fine leg boundary in the next over. In between, Kohli, too, had taken a couple of fours off him.
Dhawan got out after scoring 60 from 44 balls. Dhoni promoted himself to No. 4. He barely had batting time coming into the final. But the skipper revels in leading from the front under pressure – be it the 2011 World Cup final or Asia Cup title showdown.
Al-Amin came to bowl the penultimate over. Dhoni hit him for a six over deep mid-wicket followed by a four to the cover boundary and another six over wide long-on finish off the matter. India won by eight wickets with seven balls to spare.
Not many Bangladesh fans waited to see their team receive the runners-up trophy. It was unfair. Mortaza’s men gave a very good account of themselves in this tournament and deserved rich appreciation.