Pakistan prevail over gutsy Bangladesh

Mirpur-Bangladesh, By Abhishek Purohit, March 22, 2012: When their gut-wrenching disappointment dies down, Bangladesh will remember that they were just one stroke away from the Asia Cup title. And see it as clinching evidence of their progress. When their sense of relief passes, Pakistan will remember that they were tested to the hilt, but came through somehow. And see it as confirmation of their renowned ability to win the big moments. gutsy Bangladesh

But for the moment, Bangladesh will be gutted; gutted at what could have been, gutted that it wasn’t to be. They had lost their first tournament final by two wickets to Sri Lanka in 2009. The margin was two runs today. What wouldn’t Shahadat Hossain give to take back the 50th over of Pakistan’s innings bowled by him which went for 19? What wouldn’t Nazimuddin and Nasir Hossain give to take back their innings of 16 off 52 balls and 28 off 63 in the chase?

In a game that came down to four runs needed off the last ball, several passages of play could be said to have been decisive. Sarfraz Ahmed’s 46 off 52, which turned 199 for 8 into 236 for 9. Shahid Afridi’s 32 off 22 and 1 for 28 in ten overs with the ball. Shakib Al Hasan’s dismissal with Bangladesh needing 58 off 39.

Bangladesh had themselves to blame for allowing a target that had seemed gettable at the start to turn into a daunting one. It was Nazimuddin’s clueless crawl of an innings that invited pressure despite Tamim Iqbal’s fourth consecutive half-century. Tamim’s departure to Younis Khan’s third sharp catch further increased the pressure on the hosts in their first chase in a tournament final.

While the plan could have been for Nazimuddin to be the anchor and Tamim to be the aggressor, the former became completely subdued after being beaten four times in five deliveries by Umar Gul in the second over, leaving run-making duties completely to his partner.

Tamim responded by hitting Gul out of the attack with four fours in nine deliveries. All shots bore the mark of a man in top form, with the highlight being a punch through point played with his feet off the ground. Nazimuddin continued to dig a deeper hole for himself, treating Mohammad Hafeez with utmost respect and allowing him to get through five overs for only 10 runs.

Realisation belatedly dawned on him, but by then, he had got into such a rut that he was mistiming almost everything. Bangladesh were not able to get anywhere close to dominating, which they should have given the way Tamim was batting. In the same Shahid Afridi over in which Tamim brought up his fourth half-century of the tournament, off 48 balls, Younis finally ended Nazimuddin’s misery with a running catch at long-off. By then, Nazimuddin had used up 52 balls for his 16.

Jahurul Islam did not last long against Ajmal’s doosra and gave Younis his second catch, at slip. With Nasir also struggling to get going, Tamim decided to take on Gul but only found extra cover with a mis-hit pull, Younis diving forward to take another excellent catch. Carrying his nation’s hopes once again, Shakib walked in at 81 for 3 and pulled his first delivery for four. Afridi and Gul responded with consecutive maiden overs. Shakib set about targetting Hammad Azam and Cheema as Bangladesh tried to keep the rate from galloping out of control.

It rose above eight. Shakib swung Cheema over midwicket for six. Despite Shakib’s hitting, Nasir’s struggle had begun to hurt Bangladesh. It was similar to the way the innings had cantered and stalled alternatively when Tamim and Nazimuddin were batting. Nasir finally holed out off Gul in the 43rd over. Shakib coolly scooped the last ball of that over past short fine leg. But an attempt to repeat the stroke in the next over off Cheema resulted in his leg stump being rattled.

With 47 needed off five overs, Mushfiqur Rahim swung Cheema straight to deep midwicket. This Bangladesh side does not easily roll over though. Mahmudullah and Mashrafe Mortaza smashed Gul for three fours in four balls in the 47th over. It came down to 19 needed off 15. Mortaza then paddled Ajmal into the hands of short fine leg. With Mahmudullah still around and four needed off two, Abdur Razzak turned Cheema onto his stumps, and, in an ironic end, Shahadat, could not get the last ball away for more than a leg-bye.

As Misbah-ul-Haq embraced Cheema, there were tears in the Bangladesh dressing room. They had been favourites to crack on their biggest day as a cricketing nation. A fourth consistent performance on the trot was expected to be beyond them. But they gave an extremely creditable account of themselves, especially with the ball. Pakistan are masters of the big moment, though, and somehow find a player who performs. Wicketkeeper Sarfraz, who had a highest ODI score of 24 and a strike-rate of 62.35 before this game, weighed in with a 52-ball 46.

Bangladesh’s bowling was tight and their fielding was energetic, as it had been throughout the tournament. Pakistan were not allowed to get away, except in the last over. Bangladesh’s leading ODI wicket-taker Abdur Razzak rose to the occasion, with figures of 10-3-26-2. But Shahadat proved expensive once again in a horror last over which contained two no-balls and went for 19.

Bangladesh’s discipline till then had kept Pakistan under relentless pressure. And that pressure had brought wickets. Their openers, Hafeez and Nasir Jamshed – who had a century and a double-century stand earlier in the tournament – failed to clear the infield in their attempts to hit out. Younis and Umar Akmal got rough decisions, Misbah’s hesitation ran him out, and Azam and Afridi threw it away. Afridi was his normal hit-or-depart self, and another promising innings was soon terminated, after a few breathtaking strokes, with a mis-hit to long-off. There was no knowing at that stage that it would turn out to be one of the most important knocks of the game.

Gul could not repeat his salvage act from the tournament opener against Bangladesh, and Sarfraz was the unlikely candidate for a mini-recovery. He ensured Pakistan batted the full 50 overs and Bangladesh finally fell apart in the last one. Shahadat served up waist-high full tosses, and short and wide deliveries to be carted for 19, and left Pakistan’s strength, their bowling, with a decent score to defend. A chase in a final was something Bangladesh had never encountered before. It did inhibit the usual freedom of a couple of their batsmen, and that was the difference in the end.


Dot balls






Last 10 overs


Pakistan 180 19 3 43/2 11/0(16-20) 36/0 (35-39) 66/3 4/4
Bangladesh 166 20 1 35/0 8/2(16-20) 21/0 (36-40) 81/5


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