Pakistan win Asia Cup, Bangladesh hearts

Vineet Ramakrishnan/Zeenews Sports Bureau

Mirpur: Stunned silent crowd, agonized Tamim Iqbal, a tearful Mushfiqur Rahim, gloomy Nasir Hossain and a pensive Shakib Al Hasan. Emotions ran high and the Sher-e- Bangla stadium was engulfed in it. Never had they played such a high profile game; for the first time, odds were not stacked against them and they played, played not like underdogs but as heavyweights at par with their opposition, Pakistan. Stats generally hide more than what they reveal, but here, the 2-run loss did not hide anything, it only revealed character, the character of a bunch of youngsters talented cricketers.

Bangladesh came agonizing close to a historic win as Pakistan scraped past the spirited Bangladesh tigers by 2-runs to win the Asia Cup 2012. It was to be historic day for Bangladesh, but even without a win, the day would be remembered in cricketing history as one of the best Asia Cup finale. Chasing a target of 237, Bangladesh finished at 234/8. The tournament itself was consequential as Bangladesh had defeated World Cup 2011 finalists, India and Sri Lanka en route to the finals.

Tamim Iqbal had led the charge as he had been doing all along the tournament, but his partner Nazimuddin showed signs of nervousness. Generally an attacking player, he was overwhelmed by the occasion.

Tamim, with a form of a lifetime to bank upon had raced to 25 off just 27 balls while Nazimuddin crawled to 8 off 33. By the time Nazimuddin perished after his patience vigil of 16 from 52 balls, Tamim had reached his fourth consecutive half century. Jahurul Islam walked in and walked back without troubling the scorers.

By the 20th over Bangladesh needed 5.56 runs per over to deal with the chase , and that was the time the trio of dangerous Saeed Ajmal, wily Afridi and the miserly Mohammed Hafeez gradually took control of the game. Between them, the tweaker conceded just 98 runs off 30 overs picking up three wickets.

Nasir Hossain, who came in next, followed the Nazimuddin suit. He was foxed by Ajmal’s doosra, cramped for room by Hafeez and hurried on by Afridi’s quicker one. It took him 42 balls to hit his first boundary and his innings of 28 consumed more than 10 overs, 63 balls to be precise. Hailed as one of the finds of Bangladesh cricket in the recent future, Hossain was probably the second victim of the big occasion.

The turning point of the match though had already come by the time Nasir settled himself. Playing confidently at 60 runs, Tamim, with the same confidence went for a rash expansive drive on the rise only to pick out Younis Khan at extra cover.

The momentum stalled for the hosts and from there on, the big occasion player for Pakistan, Saeed Ajmal, took control. Shakib walked in and the tweakers persisted with pressure. Bangladesh had to break the shackles at some point. Shakib had done that earlier against India, he had shifted gears during the powerplay, but here the powerplay yield just 21 runs. As compared to Pakistan’s 36, predominantly due to Afridi’s hard hitting, Shakib and Nasir had already missed the perfect gear shift.

From there on, it became stiffer for the hosts each over. But, credit to them that they did not crumble and stayed there, hanging in, squeezing every bit of the vociferous crowds’ energy. The equation though never went out of hand. In the 47th over when Mahmudullah cracked a boundary followed by Mortaza’s stand up ‘Marillier shot’ for four, they came close. Ajmal scalped Mortaza and conceded only 6 runs. But, 10 runs came off the second last over.

The equation became 9 runs off 6 balls. Aizaz Cheema had the ball in his hand. He was taken to the cleaners early on, but had comeback well with wickets of Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib Al Hasan. And eventually, singles of the first and second ball followed by a dot and a double plus one run overthrow, Razzaq perished. Four run of one ball and Shahadat Hossain failed to dug out a block hole delivery. Cheema ran towards Misbah not much with jubilation, but with relief. Mahmudullah took his helmet off and stared down the track as the camera panned to a distraught Tamim Iqbal in the dressing room.

Earlier, Bangladesh had restricted Pakistan to a chasable total of 236 courtesy miserly bowling spells by the spinners led by Abdur Razzaq (10-3-26-2). Shakib (10-1-39-2) supported him ably. After a crawling slow start by Hafeez (40 off 87 balls) and early breakthroughs in the form of Nasir Jamshed (9) and Younis Khan (1), Umar Akmal (30)and Hammad Azam (30) had consolidated the innings. Later in the powerplay, Afrdit (32) hit some hefty blows. Sarfraz Ahmed (46) chipped in with valuable runs in the end. Shahadat Hossain had conceded 19 runs off the last over, the maximum in an over in the innings which included a front foot no-ball.

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