Bangladesh overcame a slew of obstacles and the crushing blow of ace all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan being ruled out on the morning of the match to achieve one of their best results -- a 37-run win over two-time champions Pakistan in their Asia Cup match at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi yesterday.
The win takes the Tigers through to Friday's final in Dubai against India, their third final in the last four editions of the tournament.
Mushfiqur Rahim, playing with sore ribs that require pre-match taping to ease the discomfort, became the first Bangladesh batsman to be out for 99 in international cricket. However, his innings and the 144-run fourth-wicket stand with Mohammad Mithun rescued Bangladesh from 12 for three and took them to 239 all out in 48.5 overs. Pakistan could just manage 202 for nine in chase, with pacer Mustafizur Rahman -- who bowled a brilliant last over in Sunday's three-run win against Afghanistan – taking four for 43.
It was a special win because with star opener Tamim Iqbal already ruled out and back home with a left-hand fracture sustained in the first match, it was thought that Shakib's exit with a long-standing finger injury would be the final nail in the coffin. Shakib's absence meant they had to decide whether to play with a bowler or batsman short, and they plumped for the bowler. The enormity of the achievement is driven home in light of the fact that since Shakib's debut in August 2006, Bangladesh had played just five matches without the two stalwarts that revolutionised the country's cricket – the last instance coming in March 2014. They lost three of those matches, the last win coming in November 2013.
But far from being daunted by the series of unfortunate events, not least of which was the heat in which they have had to play, Bangladesh's bowlers and fielders responded with a rousing display that effectively added 20 runs on the board.
It was off-spinner Mehedi Hasan Miraz who drew first blood when opener Fakhar Zaman advanced in the first over and tried to clear mid on, where Rubel Hossain took a brilliant leaping catch. In the next over, Mustafizur trapped Babar Azam leg-before, and returned in the fourth over to have Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed chasing an off-cutter to be brilliantly caught by keeper Mushfiqur. Mushfiqur, struggling with his ribs and fatigue, went off the field at the end of the 15th over and handed the gloves to Liton Das.
A 67-run stand between Imam-ul-Haq and danger man Shoaib Malik was ended when Rubel got Malik to play uppishly towards midwicket, where skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza took a Super-man style leaping take, sparking the fielders into life. There was then a surprise, as part-timer Soumya Sarkar -- used to fill up the fifth bowler's quota -- had Shadab Khan caught behind off the hook with a gentle, medium-paced bouncer. Another partnership took shape between Imam, who scored his third ODI fifty, and Asif Ali. It was however ended on 71 in the 40th over, stumped off Mehedi after being dropped by Liton casually off Mustafizur in the 34th over.
When Mahmudullah had Imam bowled in the next over for 83 to bring the score to 167 for seven, it was all but over for Pakistan. Mustafizur took the next two wickets, having Hasan Ali and Mohammad Nawaz caught. Shaheen Shah Afridi and Junaid Khan denied Mustafizur his fourth five-wicket haul, but they could not deny Bangladesh a famous win that was a shining example of character under extreme duress.
Earlier, Bangladesh's innings started in customary fashion with the first three wickets falling before the end of the fifth over and with just 12 runs on the board. It was an unhappy and incompetent return to the ODI fold for Soumya Sarkar, who was the first to depart at the first opportunity to be irresponsible. He reacted late to a Junaid Khan bouncer in the third over but went through with the shot anyway, the top edge making it as far as the hands of square leg.
Mominul Haque, in for Shakib, hit a sweetly timed four in the next over off Shaheen Shah Afridi, but was beaten by pace and lost his stumps through a gap between bat and pad off the next delivery. While the ball snuck in for Mominul, it passed Liton's outside edge on way to rattle timber in the next over when Junaid came around the wicket and the batsman decided to play to mid on instead of straight.
Mushfiqur, Bangladesh's big hope at the top, then started the rebuilding job that has become a compulsory part of his job description of late and found an able ally in Mohammad Mithun. From Liton's dismissal in the second ball of the fifth over till the end of the 14th, the pair scored just 36 runs with the odd boundary here, the edged four there. But by that time the new ball, aided by a smattering of grass, had lost its venom and the pair continued unfettered on a good batting wicket. In the 16th over, Mushfiqur hit two fours to greet leg-spinner Shadab Khan, in the process bringing up the half-century stand. Even though the next 10 overs did not produce any boundaries, the duo made full use of the middle overs and still managed to score 53 runs in those boundary-less overs.
Mushfiqur completed his 30th ODI fifty off his 68th delivery in the 26th over. Mithun followed suit in the 29th over, striking a boundary off Hasan Ali and bringing up the second half-century of the tournament and his career off his 66th ball.
Five overs later, however, a rush of blood ended Mithun's innings as he slogged Hasan Ali across the line, just as he had done against Sri Lanka in the tournament opener after a similarly vital partnership, to end a 144-run fourth-wicket stand. He left for an 84-ball 60 with four boundaries, but Bangladesh were not out of trouble at 156 for four. Imrul Kayes was out leg-before to Shadab 11 runs later. Mahmudullah came in and dominated and added 30 with Mushfiqur, but there was to be no century for Mushfiqur as he became the first Bangladesh batsman to be out for 99 when he was caught behind looking for the coveted single off Shaheen Shah. He hit 116 balls and hit nine fours in his match-turning innings.
Mehedi contributed 12 before he became Junaid's third victim, and the pacer – playing his first game of the tournament in place of Mohammad Amir – picked up his fourth four-wicket haul when he bowled Mahmudullah for a 31-ball 25. Mashrafe hit the innings' maiden six in the penultimate over off Hasan, but the over also produced two more wickets as Rubel Hossain was run out and Mashrafe caught at long on, ending the innings with seven balls left unused.