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Two runs too far

Bangladesh miss out on maiden Asia Cup title as they go down narrowly to Pak in the final

Written by Nihal Koshie | Mirpur |
March 23, 2012 1:46:15 am

Bangladesh’s dream of being crowned Asia Cup champions stayed alive right until the last ball of a pulsating encounter against Pakistan on Thursday. Shahadat Hossain,their No.11 batsman,had arrived at the centre to face the final delivery from Pakistan medium-pacer Aizaz Cheema. Abdur Razzak had just been bowled off the penultimate ball,when four was needed off two.

Now with Hossain on strike,Bangladesh needed a boundary to win. Cheema found a devastating yorker. The ball rolled to the leg-side for a single. The dream was shattered and grief filled the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium.

Vice-captain Mahmudullah fell to his knees,Hossain shed tears. Cheema,with three wickets in all,celebrated within a Pakistan team huddle. A weeping captain Mashfiqur Rahim collapsed into the arms of Shakib Al-Hasan,the Man of the Tournament,the only trophy of note a Bangladesh player won.

Hossain,on the night that seemed destined to end with the hosts winning their first major title after they had restricted Pakistan to 236 for nine,missed out on being remembered for ages in this part of the world.

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It wasn’t the only time in the game that he had failed to deliver the goods,as the fast bowler had conceded 19 runs in the last over of the Pakistan innings.

Nevertheless,there were many a heroic performance by Bangladesh on the day,and indeed throughout the tournament,that will soothe the pain as a consolation prize. Performances that made a nation believe.

Almost,but not quite

Shakib,the country’s biggest star,played what will be remembered as one of his better knocks — it was a shame that he couldn’t finish the job. Nasir Hossain batted with maturity,but at a strike rate of just over 44. Opener Nazimuddin was also guilty of Nasir’s offence. These were the men responsible for defeating both India and Sri Lanka earlier in the tournament. But they too failed when it mattered most.

With less than five an over required to register their first Asia Cup win,Bangladesh’s talismanic Tamim Iqbal forced Pakistan’s strike bowler Umar Gul out of the attack early,after he hit him for consecutive fours in the sixth over of the innings. But even Iqbal struggled during the middle-overs,as Pakistan’s spin twins — Saeed Ajmal and Man of the Match Shahid Afridi — showed just why they were going to be the main threats to Bangladesh’s chase.

Between the 16th and 20th over,Bangladesh made just eight runs for the loss of two wickets. Nazimuddin,who took 52 balls for his 16,was the first to be put out of his misery,foxed by Afridi,before Jahurul Islam was done in by an Ajmal doosra. Both were caught by the ever alert Younis Khan.

But the best of Younis’s three catches came a few overs later,when he caught Iqbal’s ferocious stroke just inches off the ground,as Gul salvaged some pride with the opener’s wicket. At the half-way stage of the innings,it was an inopportune time for a well-settled batsman to get out. While Shakib ensured that there were no stoppages in the momentum and set off from where Iqbal had left,he too would get out for a similar score when the team needed him to carry on.

Shakib was the dangerman once he found boundaries off the fast bowlers,including a six off Cheema over mid-wicket. But the asking rate was climbing and the all-rounder was bowled by Cheema after he walked across his stumps in an attempt to find the fine-leg boundary. At that point,with Shakib’s dismissal for 68,Bangladesh still needed 58 runs from 38 balls.

A soft end

While the seasoned Mashrafe Mortaza and Mahmadullah found the big shots to bring down the asking rate,the former gifted Ajmal his second wicket by executing a pre-meditated scoop. Bangladesh had needed 19 from 14 balls when Mortaza was dismissed,and he seemed to be the only man capable off going at the requisite strike-rate.

The runs weren’t out of grasp even in the final over,but at a stage when the Bangladesh tailenders needed to hold their nerve,it was Pakistan’s Cheema who held his. It wasn’t Pakistan’s greatest essay with the ball,yet it saved them for an almost certain embarrassment that they were heading towards after being put in to bat first.

By the end of the first mandatory powerplay,Misbah’s men had lost two wickets for 43 runs. Then,from the start of the 11th to the end of the 23rd,their batsmen didn’t hit a single boundary.

A recovery,worth 59,was posted by Umar Akmal and all-rounder Hammad Azam. Afterwards,during the batting powerplay,Shahid Afridi excelled by making 27 off his 32 runs. At the other end,wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed,who took Hossain to the cleaners in the last over,remained unbeaten on 46.

Hossain’s last over was the costliest of the first innings — but his last act of the day was even costlier.

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First published on: 23-03-2012 at 01:46:15 am

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