Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Tigers tamed

Pakistan clinch a cliffhanger to deny Bangladesh Asia Cup
Pakistan denied Bangladesh the celebration of the biggest moment in their cricketing history when they beat the hosts by two runs in the nerve-wracking Asia Cup final at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur yesterday. Pakistan enhanced their reputation as masters of the big moment by clinching the Asia Cup for the second time after first achieving it in 2000 in the same city but at a different venue, at the Bangabandhu National Stadium.
But the Tigers left the field with their heads held high and they can feel proud even in defeat after the way they have performed in this tournament. Some players were seen weeping after this heartbreaking defeat as once again they were so close yet so far. The deafening noise coming from the stands as pacer Aizaz Cheema ran in to bowl the last ball was suddenly transformed into a deathly silence when Shahadat Hossain failed to hit the winning boundary as Bangladesh finished their 50-over quota on 234 for eight in reply to Pakistan’s 236 for nine.
Everybody was at the edge of their seats when Bangladesh required nine runs from the last over but ultimately the home team could manage only six at the cost of the wicket of Abdur Razzak.
In the end, the profligacy of Shahadat Hossain, who conceded 19 runs in the last over, and the slow batting from Nazimuddin (16 from 52 balls) and Nasir Hossain (28 from 63) played a major role behind the defeat, although incredibly Tamim Iqbal made yet another fifty, his fourth consecutive half-century. And of course, the fantastic Shakib Al Hasan hit 68 runs and credit goes to Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, who smashed a nine-ball 18, for taking it so close.
After a 68-run opening partnership between Tamim and Nazimuddin, Bangladesh lost three quick wickets but Shakib joined Nasir Hossain to steady the ship. They seemed to be batting with the mantra of keeping wickets intact as much as possible because they played from overs 23.1 to 42.3 to share 89 runs for the fourth wicket, but sadly for the home side, the Tigers could not make up the run rate in the death overs.
Pacer Aizaz Cheema first brought Pakistan back into the match by removing Shakib and captain Mushfiqur Rahim in quick succession before the right-arm pacer kept his nerve in the last over to deny the Bangladeshis their glory.
Earlier, Mushfiqur Rahim maintained his hundred percent record in winning the toss to field first and the Bangladesh bowlers did an excellent job apart from the Shahadat’s chaotic last over to restrict Pakistan to 236 for nine.
Wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed, who had a highest ODI score of 24 before this game, turned 199 for 8 into 236 for 9 with a 52-ball 46. Many thought Pakistan were still short on a pitch that had been favourable to the chasing side through the tournament.
Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, Abdur Razzak and Shakib Al Hasan took two wickets each to make sure none of the Pakistani batsmen were able to score big as Mohammad Hafeez (40), Umar Akmal (30), Hammad Azam (30) and Shahid Afridi (32) failed to carry on from good starts.
After that, many started to dream of achieving their biggest victory in history in front of high-profile guests like Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Leader of the Opposition Begum Khaleda Zia, but they fell two runs short.
Despite the defeat it will not be unwise if someone shouts at the top of their voices “Bravo Bangladesh”, “Bravo Tigers” because they showed rare consistency in the tournament which will definitely silence the critics who often criticise the Tigers’ performance at the international level.
Pakistan won the trophy but it was Bangladesh who won the hearts of millions.

-With The Daily Star input

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