Pakistan prevail in fabulous final
Bangladesh came agonisingly close to lifting the Asia Cup on home soil, only to succumb to a two-run defeat at the hands of Pakistan in a thrilling final in Dhaka.
The Tigers, who defeated India and Sri Lanka in successive games prior to this match, were left needing four runs from the final ball of the tournament at the culmination of a dramatic run chase featuring numerous shifts in momentum.
Yet Shahadat Hossain - who had earlier been taken for 19 in the last over of Pakistan’s innings - could only muster a leg bye off Aizaz Cheema, leaving Bangladesh on 234 for eight in pursuit of 237.
Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan had earlier contributed 60 and 68 respectively, the former recording his fourth half-century in as many matches, but the hosts were ultimately left to rue their failure to score at a quicker rate. Nazimuddin and Nasir Hossain may well regret the pace of their innings, having taken up a combined total of 115 balls in making 44.
Despite this, Bangladesh retained high hopes of victory heading into the closing stages and required just 19 from the final 15 balls before Saeed Ajmal claimed the key wicket of Mashrafe Mortaza, who had thumped 18 from his first eight deliveries.
Pakistan’s victory owed much to wicketkeeper-batsman Sarfraz Ahmed, who surpassed his previous ODI-best of 24 in stunning style by compiling a valuable unbeaten 46. It was he and Cheema who crucially bolstered the score to 236 for nine in Shahadat’s final set of six.
Their contributions would ultimately prove crucial as the four-nation tournament - which had previously been lit up by Sachin Tendulkar’s 100th hundred, a masterful 183 from Virat Kohli and Bangladesh’s impressive performances - ended in suitably entertaining fashion.
Home captain Mushfiqur Rahim did not hesitate in choosing to field first after winning the toss.
On a slow surface, Pakistan’s batsmen struggled from the outset, Mohammad Hafeez the only member of the top four to pass 13.
When the opener became Abdur Razzak’s first victim, having compiled 40 from 87 balls, Pakistan were struggling on 70 for four and although Hammad Azam and Umar Akmal each made 30, they then fell in quick succession to left-arm spinner Shakib.
Shahid Afridi provided impetus with a typically adventurous 22-ball 32, but it was left to Sarfraz to ensure his side batted out 50 overs. Few could have predicted how pivotal his late acceleration would prove.
Bangladesh’s openers enjoyed contrasting fortunes in reply. The fluent Tamim maintained his fine form, striking eight fours in an attractive innings, but Nazimuddin struggled badly and faced 37 dot balls before falling to Afridi.
Jahurul Islam lasted just five deliveries before nicking an Ajmal doosra to slip and there was a further blow for Bangladesh when Tamim mis-cued a pull off Gul to provide Younus Khan with his third catch.
Shakib and Nasir shared 89, but the latter was another to score slowly and 67 were still needed when he fell to Gul midway through the 43rd over.
The valiant Shakib and Mushfiqur soon followed, but Mortaza and Mahmudullah kept Bangladesh in the hunt.
Nine were required from the last over and four from the final two balls, but Cheema then bowled Razzak before holding his nerve to dent Shahadat a winning boundary.