Bangladesh batsman Mahmudullah Riyad singled out Mustafizur Rahman for special praise after the left-arm pacer kept his nerve and overcame cramps to bowl a last over for the ages, conceding just four runs when Afghanistan needed eight to win their Asia Cup Super Four match in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
The win kept Bangladesh alive in the Asia Cup, turning their last Super Four match against Pakistan on Wednesday into a virtual semi-final. It also knocked Afghanistan out of the running for the final.
In their chase of 250, Afghanistan brought the match to a thrilling finish, needing 19 runs off the last 12 balls with five wickets in hand.
Mohammad Nabi hit Shakib Al Hasan for a six in the second ball of the penultimate over but holed out off a full toss in the next ball. Two more singles and a couple brought the equation down to eight from six.
But a brilliant last over followed from Mustafizur, who caught and bowled Rashid Khan in the second ball and conceded just two more leg byes. Needing four off the last ball, Gulbadin Naib threw everything he had at the last delivery, but just the bat flew out of his hand as the ball made it safely to wicketkeeper Mushfiqur Rahim.
Mustafizur finished with two for 44 off nine overs, having earlier provided Bangladesh’s first breakthrough by dismissing opener Ihsanullah Janat in the fifth over. Near the end, he was seen struggling with cramps in the sapping desert heat, but soldiered on regardless and took up the gamble of bowling the last over with the momentum with Afghanistan.
“Mustafizur bowled really well. I think all the bowlers bowled really well -- Shakib, Mash [skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza], [Mehedi Hasan] Miraz,” said Mahmudullah, who was adjudged player-of-the-match for his 81-ball 74 in a 128-run sixth-wicket stand with Imrul Kayes. “I give special credit to Mustafizur because he was struggling with a hamstring problem. So he did it for our team, did it for our country.”
He rated Mustafizur’s last over above his stand with Imrul, which rescued Bangladesh from the dire straits of being 87 for five after winning the toss.
“I would say Mustafizur's last over [was more important]. Because although our partnership was important, defending eight off six balls is not that easy.
It always feels good to win by narrow margins like this. They played very well, we also played very well. Maybe we held our nerves better in the end because of Mustafizur's brilliant last over. I am repeatedly giving him credit because we all saw that he was cramping near the end. He was stretching. It was not that easy. He was probably not even bowling off his full run-up; he had shortened it a bit.”