Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah combined have played 391 games in the shorter versions of the game. And they were perhaps the most experienced batsmen that Bangladesh had to stroke those two runs off the last three balls to create a small piece of history at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore yesterday.
But then minds went on vacation and the Tigers suffered their most painful defeat from the jaws of a famous win against hosts India since their heart-stopping two-run defeat in the Asia Cup final against Pakistan four years ago.
The need of those nerve-wracking moments was for Mushfiqur, who struck the second ball of the final over bowled by Hardik Pandya for a magnificent four thorough the covers and followed it up with a cheeky scoop down to the fine leg boundary, to cool down and play all along the turf to stroke those two runs off three deliveries.
But to the disbelief he hit a short ball straight to the fielder at mid-wicket. By the time the catch was taken Riyad reached the striker's end. The right hander, who has been in fine form and looked the coolest man on the field in the midst of thunderous roars from a choc-a-bloc home crowd, did exactly what Mushfiqur had done. This time it was a full toss from Pandya, which Riyad could have played anywhere for a single if not for those two runs to win.
On strode Mustafizur Rahman at the non-striker's end and Shuvagata Hom took strike for the final delivery. He swung his bat and missed it completely. Mustafizur ran from the non-striker's end in a desperate attempt to enforce a tie and take it to a Super Over. But Bangladesh were chancing their arms against perhaps the most intelligent wicket-keeper the cricket world has ever witnessed. Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who demonstrated how shrewd he was by stumping a slightly off-balanced Sabbir Rahman earlier in the Bangladesh innings, ran towards the wicket instead of throwing the ball. He beat Mustafizur by a couple of inches and the whole of India erupted in unbridled joy on a day when they also celebrated the Holi festival.
The one-run victory gave India a lifeline for a place in the semifinals while the defeat, Bangladesh's third in as many games, threw them out of the competition with a game in hand against New Zealand at the Eden Gardens on March 26.
With this defeat Bangladesh lost a golden opportunity not only to score their first win against India on their home soil, but their first over India in this format. The defeat was so stunning for a neutral like Australian Moody that he was grunting to a peer “How could they lose the game?”
But apart from that three-ball freak show, the Tigers looked like the team to win the game. Captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza won the toss after seven failed attempts and had opted to bowl. The team has made one change with opener Tamim Iqbal, who sat out the last game against Australia due to a stomach upset, coming in for left-arm spinner Saqlain Sajib.
And the moment Mashrafe took the new ball, keeping two sweepers, Bangladesh perhaps bowled the best 20 disciplined overs against one of the best batting line-ups. There were a couple of overs that went for runs, but restricting India to 146 for seven could have been any team's dream on such a good wicket.
India scored 27 runs in the first five of six Powerplay overs bowled by five different bowlers who, with the exception of Al-Amin Hossain who went for 8 runs, all kept it tight. India lost wickets at regular intervals whenever they tried to break free. Mashrafe bowled four overs beautifully, Shakib was outstanding with his variations, Mustafizur Rahman was at the top of his deceiving best, Al-Amin took two wickets off successive deliveries to effectively douse India's attempt at a final flourish.
Bangladesh started very well despite losing opener Mohammad Mithun early with Tamim enjoying some sloppy catching from Indian fielders. He scored a fine 35 off 32 balls that contained five fours, including four in one over from Jasprit Bumrah. Bangladesh scored 45 for one by the end of six overs and never looked uncomfortable with Sabbir scoring 26 off 15 balls and Shakib, who called most of the shots while Bangladesh were fielding, hit two massive sixes for a 15-ball 22. Coming in to bat at number seven, Soumya also played his part, scoring a run-a-ball 21. But when the stage was almost set to bring the best of the Tigers in extreme adversity, they suffered that nervous breakdown. It's a defeat that will haunt them for a long, long time. And for the Indians, a great escape act to cherish.