Tigers maul Pakistan
A chartered flight is usually reserved for heads of states or billionaires. The Tigers may not have elevated themselves to that status but on Wednesday night they forced their employer to make an arrangement for one such flight from Dhaka to Dharamsala after an extraordinary five-wicket win against Pakistan.
The victory meant Bangladesh will take on India in Sunday's blockbuster Asia Cup T20 final, leaving all other activities including two remaining league games as mere academic exercise. It also pushed back the Tigers' departure to Dharamsala, where they are scheduled to take on Ireland in their opening ICC World Twenty20 qualifier on March 9.
The game boiled down to the wire as Bangladesh were left with the tough task of scoring 26 runs from the last 18 balls. Pakistan, in one last attempt to turn the tide, brought back Mohammad Amir. And when Shakib Al Hasan injudiciously tried to scoop the second ball and got bowled, pin-drop silence gripped the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur.
On strode Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, and the fear of yet another near-miss turned into a delirium of joy as he hit the first ball he faced for four past mid-off and then peculiarly yet effectively pulled the next, a bouncer for another four down to the fine leg boundary.
It then came down to 18 from 12 balls and Mohammad Sami came out to bowl. It was an over Pakistan will try to forget and Bangladesh will relish as the pacer overstepped twice for two no-balls and the pair of Mahmudullah and Mashrafe stroked 15 runs that included a superbly timed shot from Mahmudullah to the point boundary off the second no-ball.
Mahmudullah then hit the first ball of the final over from Anwar Ali for the winning four over mid-wicket and the Tigers, who twice suffered painful defeats from the jaws of victory against Pakistan in Asia Cup matches, started to sing 'we have overcome'.
Mahmudullah scored an unbeaten 15-ball 22 and Mashrafe struck 12 off seven balls as the Tigers reached 131 for five in 19.1 overs. Soumya Sarkar returned to form with a run-a-ball 48, featuring five fours and a six, which laid the early platform for the Tigers.
Earlier, the bowlers did their part to restrict Pakistan to 129 for seven. It was a night when the Tigers', bowling without their lethal weapon Mustafizur Rahman, hardly put a foot wrong after Pakistan had won the toss and decided to bat on a wicket which did not have much of the grass that characterised most pitches in this tournament. Taskin Ahmed bowled the first over beautifully before Al-Amin Hossain struck with the very first ball of the second over; a full delivery that kicked up after hitting the turf only to find the edge of Khurram Manzoor's bat.
Mushfiqur Rahim, standing behind the wicket in place of Nurul Hasan who paved the way for Tamim Iqbal's return to the Asia Cup, made no mistake in taking the catch.
Left-arm spinner Arafat Sunny, coming in for the injured Mustafizur, also got a wicket in his first over. This time left-handed Sharjeel Khan swept all over the straighter delivery that disturbed his furniture. With a suffocating atmosphere emanating from a full-throated full house partisan crowd, Pakistan were reduced to 3-18 by the end of the fifth over, with inspirational Tigers skipper Mashrafe having Mohammad Hafeez trapped in front of the wicket.
After staying at the wicket for a while Umar Akmal made the first attempt to break the shackles. But it presented Taskin with his first wicket. Taskin got the reward as Shakib took a skier after a bit of a juggle. The young pace bowler, who had been a victim of three dropped catches earlier in the tournament, was so accurate with his line and length that after he had bowled his three overs the figures read 3-1-2-1.
He was a bit expensive in his last over, but that was the case for every Bangladesh bowler when Shoaib Malik and Sarfraz Ahmed took the attack to the sword in the final seven overs that produced 75 runs.
However, Bangladesh made sure there were no fireworks from Shahid Afridi, whose late pyrotechnics denied the Tigers on a number of occasions. On a night when not a single catch was dropped by the on-their-toes fielders, Afridi flayed a low full toss straight to Sabbir Rahman at mid-wicket off Al-Amin, the most successful Bangladesh bowler with 3-25. Sunny took two wickets but cost 35 runs in his four overs.
Malik hit a stroke-filled 35 off 27 balls that contained four fours and a six while Sarfraz, who batted with purpose, scored an unbeaten 58 off 42 balls with five fours and two sixes.
SCORES IN BRIEF
PAKISTAN: 129 for 7 in 20 overs (Sarfraz 58 not out, Malik 41; Al-Amin 3-25, Sunny 2-25)
BANGLADESH: 131 for 5 in 19.1 overs (Soumya 48, Mahmudullah 22 not out; Amir 2-26)
Result: Bangladesh won by 5 wickets.
Player-of-the-match: Soumya Sarkar