Bangladesh book place in Asia Cup Final
DUBAI (92 News) – Bangladesh will face India in the 2018 Asia Cup final after beating Pakistan by 37 runs in a virtual semi-final.
Bangladesh posted 239 at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi, owed largely to Mohammad Mithun (60) and a superb 99 by Mushfiqur Rahim, which nullified an earlier stumble.
Despite Junaid Khan’s 4/19 in his first appearance of this Asia Cup, Pakistan’s bowlers failed to find a cutting edge in the middle overs, while Imam ul-Haq’s valiant 83 was in vain as their batters struggled to keep up with the rate.
Both teams had endured similar outings thus far; both lost comprehensively to India but beat Afghanistan in last-over finishes, which meant the winner here would secure a spot in Friday’s finale. It seemed inevitable, then, that both innings would start in similar fashion, with the top order collapsing before some astute knocks in the middle overs.
After Bangladesh won the toss and elected to bat, Shaheen Afridi and Junaid Khan bowled tidily at the top, with Junaid making the first breakthrough when Soumya Sarkar looped one to short mid-on via his top-edge. Then, two further blows left Bangladesh reeling at 12/3; Shaheen got one through Mominul Haque’s defences before Junaid disturbed Liton Das’ stumps with an absolute corker.
In a crucial stage of the innings, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mohammad Mithun wrestled back momentum. A crunching cover-drive by Mushfiqur in the tenth over off Hasan Ali stated his form, and the duo dealt admirably with the introduction of spin in the form of Mohammad Nawaz, Shadab Khan and two overs from Shoaib Malik.
Bangladesh’s 50 came in the 17th over. Pakistan chopped and changed, desperate for a breakthrough, but whilst Bangladesh were batting well, they weren’t batting Pakistan out of the game; Mithun had only recorded three boundaries when he reached his 50, but both batsmen were rotating the strike well.
They reached the 150-mark and recorded the highest fourth-wicket stand for Bangladesh against Pakistan, but Hasan soon nabbed Mithun with a simple caught and bowled. Bangladesh fed their habit of losing wickets in clusters when Shadab got Imrul Kayes out lbw.
Mushfiqur was eventually dismissed one run short of three figures, as Shaheen enticed the outside edge to conclude a fine knock. Mehedi Hasan and Mashrafe Mortaza both chipped in at more than a run a ball before the impressive Junaid and Hasan, who also ran out Rubel Hossain, claimed their wickets, as Bangladesh were bowled out for a respectable 239 from 48.5 overs.
Pakistan, echoing Bangladesh’s top-order display, were rocked by three early wickets. Firstly, Fakhar Zaman – whose five innings have yielded 56 runs at 11.20 during the competition – hit a a clean drive straight to mid-on off Mehedi, before Mustafizur Rahman pinned Babar Azam in front and enticed the edge of Sarfraz Ahmed’s blade to make it 18/3.
Imam ul-Haq and Shoaib Malik regrouped, just like Mushfiqur and Mithun had done earlier. With Bangladesh arguably a bowler light in the absence of Shakib Al Hasan, Rubel Hossain’s scalp was pivotal. In looking to up the ante, Malik, who made a leisurely 51-ball 30, picked out Mortaza at short mid-wicket via a leg-side flick, with the skipper claiming a sensational two-handed grab. The fourth wicket was a vital breakthrough – one Pakistan had failed to get early enough.
Imam ploughed on, but the climbing run-rate worsened when Shadab ate up 24 deliveries before being dismissed for four, with Pakistan now needing over a run a ball. Shadab’s promotion above Asif Ali may not have proved fruitful but the latter provided good company for Imam from No.7, who reached his fifty in the 31st over. A lot still rested on the opener’s shoulders.
A big straight six from Imam off Mortaza signalled intent, but smart work by stand-in wicketkeeper Liton Das stumped Asif to end the 71-run partnership, before repeating the feat to remove prize-scalp Imam, off the bowling of Mehedi and Mahmudullah respectively. As the rate became unmanageable, Mustafizur Rahman dismissed Hasan and Mohammad Nawaz as Pakistan finished 37 runs light at 202/9.