The target was just 223 for the vaunted Indian batting that has struck fear in the hearts of bowling line-ups the world over, but that it took them till the last ball of the 50th over to complete a three-wicket win in the Asia Cup final spoke volumes of the heart Bangladesh have shown throughout the tournament.
However, as the fireworks clouded the clear night sky at the Dubai International Stadium last night, Bangladesh skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza would possibly have been wondering what could have been had they batted out 50 overs for just the second time in the tournament, or if they had capitalised on the 120-run opening stand provided by centurion Liton Das and unlikely opener Mehedi Hasan Miraz.
They fought till the end, even when just 18 were needed off four overs with five wickets in hand and then 13 off 18 balls. Rubel Hossain, who bowled brilliantly throughout for figures of 26 for two from 10 overs, had Ravindra Jadeja caught behind in the 48th over which cost just four runs. Mustafizur Rahman bowled another brilliant penultimate over that saw the back of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and conceded just three. With six needed off the last over, part-timer Mahmudullah Riyad bowled intelligently -- bowling the penultimate ball from behind the crease to confuse tailender Kuldeep Yadav -- and brought the equation down to a single needed off the last ball. But Kedar Jadhav, who had to leave the field with cramps and came back to resume batting after Jadeja's exit, managed to get bad on a full delivery and it trickled down to fine leg for the all-important single to be completed.
Hampered by the absences of stalwarts Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan, Bangladesh showed outstanding spirit in fighting against all odds. In that the final was an apt one because they had done that throughout the tournament, adapting to setbacks and still finding a way to go past a feisty Afghanistan and a more-fancied Pakistan to make it to the final clash, but the wear and tear of an emotionally and physically exhausting tournament eventually manifested in the form of a batting failure at the most inopportune moment. They were left to rue another heartbreak in the Asia Cup final after falling at the last hurdle against Pakistan in 2012 and India in 2016.
Despite the batting implosion after their brightest start of the tournament, it was a bowling effort that Bangladesh can be proud of as they seemed out of the game on numerous occasions but clawed their way back each time.
Openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan had shot to 35 within five overs, but Nazmul Islam had the latter caught at mid off. Skipper Mashrafe then produced a beautiful away swinger to have Ambati Rayudu caught behind. Rubel hounded Sharma, giving him no room with balls that jagged back in till the Indian captain grew frustrated and hit him to square leg to be out for 47 and bring Bangladesh back into the match at 83 for three in the 17th over.
The Tigers kept a tight leash on Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik, ensuring their 53-run stand was a slow one, coming in 14 overs, before Karthik missed a straight one from Mahmudullah and was adjudged leg-before. Mustafizur Rahman had Dhoni caught in the 37th over for a 67-ball 36 and it was truly game on when Jadhav was forced to retire hurt in the following over. However, in the end, Bangladesh's wasted opportunities with the bat would come back to haunt them.
It had begun in ideal fashion for Bangladesh after Sharma asked them to bat first on a good wicket. If Mehedi -- a useful number eight batsman -- coming out to open disrupted India's expectations, the way Liton went after strike bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar upended their applecart.
When the elegant but mercurial right-hander jumped down the pitch and clipped Bumrah, bowling at good pace, to the square leg boundary it was a statement of intent that Mehedi received, showing his calibre with a square driven boundary in the same over. Two successive fours off Liton's bat followed in the next over from Kumar and a lofted boundary off a 140kmph-plus Bumrah delivery in the seventh over.
The leg spin of Yuzvendra Chahal was then clobbered for a six over square leg in the next over, which also saw the Bangladesh fifty coming up, without loss in a tournament that Bangladesh's openers had managed a best of 16.
Liton brought up his first ODI fifty off his 33rd ball, hitting the first ball of the 12th over from Jadeja for four. The time was right for the ill-advised shot and Liton did not disappoint, but Chahal did as he failed to latch on to Liton's skied slog sweep at mid on in the same over.
The life seemed to have chastened Liton, as he focused on playing balls along the ground from then, bringing up Bangladesh's first century opening partnership in 27 matches with an edged four in the 18th over.
However, in the 21st over with the score on 120, Mehedi departed when he cut Kuldeep Jadhav straight to cover point and that opened the floodgates. Imrul Kayes was adjudged leg-before for two in the 24th over off Chahal, a decision that stayed with the umpire's call upon review.
Mushfiqur Rahim, in supreme form, was expected to guide Liton to his century, but instead he hit a Jadhav long hop straight down deep midwicket's throat. The collapse that had so far happened at the top shifted to the middle order through a brilliant piece of fielding from Jadeja in the 28th over, when he dived to stop a well-hit cover drive from Liton and then threw at the non-striker's end, which was vacant as Mohammad Mithun was looking at Liton at hand-shaking distance at the other end.
Liton, then on 95 off 84 balls, rushed to his first international century off 87 balls in the next over with a single after hitting a swept four off Jadhav. Mahmudullah succeeded only in accompanying Liton to his century and little else as he followed fellow senior batsman Mushfiqur's example and holed out off Yadav in the 33rd over, meaning that Bangladesh had lost five wickets for 30 runs.
With the seniors having failed them, Liton and Soumya Sarkar then added 58 runs for the sixth wicket before Liton was stumped off Yadav by the finest of margins in the 41st over. The third umpire took ages to make his decision as a magnifier had to be used to determine that the part of Liton's foot that looked to be behind the line was actually not grounded, and he had to walk back for a splendid 121 off 117 balls with 12 fours and two sixes.
Mashrafe then continued the trend of seniors throwing it away as he needlessly tried to repeat a six hit off Yadav and was stumped in the 43rd over, leaving Soumya with the tail. The panic had fully set in by then as evidenced by Nazmul's run out in the 47th over. Two overs later, Soumya followed suit, failing to complete a second run and walking back with a 45-ball 33. Rubel Hossain lasted just one ball and was bowled by a Kumar yorker in the next as Bangladesh were all out with nine balls still to be played.