Fizz’s one last ball changes Asia Cup equation

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Mustafizur Rahman celebrates the victory after bowling the last delivery. Photo-Collected

Bangladesh two wins away for maiden title

Bangladesh were missing out to have their maiden Asia Cup title twice at home in the 50-over Asia Cup in 2012 and the Twenty20 version in 2016, losing to Pakistan and India by two runs and eight wickets respectively.

Now in the 14th Asia Cup in UAE, the Tigers will need two wins more - against Pakistan in a virtual semifinal in Abu Dhabi on September 26 before the six-nation tournament final against mighty Indians at Dubai International Cricket Stadium on September 26 - to materialise their dream.

Bangladesh’s hope of race in the tournament could have shuttered by ICC’s new full member nation Afghanistan in Abu Dhabi on September 24, but the death-over-killer Mustafizur Rahman stood as the shield as denied utilising the last Afghans breath, needing four off one last ball.

The cutter master Mustafizur kept his head cool and six deliveries of an excruciating final over exactly where he needed to, conceding just four runs when the plucky Afghans needed eight for a win in their Super-Four game and to eliminate Bangladesh.

Bangladesh got a three-run victory, restricting Afghanistan on 246 for 7 in 50 overs after posting their second most score 249/7 and playing full 50 overs, for the first time in the tournament till date, spurred by Mahmudullah Riyad [74] and Imrul Kayes’s [72*] doughty 6th wicket partnership of 128 alongside their half centuries.

The death-over scenario:  Mustafizur, lovingly known as the Fizz throughout the cricketing fraternity, bowling his 9th over as the team’s last, worked in all the variety and intelligence that he has picked up in various arenas.

The Afghans were in need of eight off last six balls for a 250-run chase with all-round nemesis Rashid Khan at the striking end. Rashid managed two off the first ball before brilliantly caught and bowled by Fizz in the next ball.

Samiullah Shenwari got one leg by run while Gulbadin Naib gave a dot in the next before having one leg by run in the 5th ball, keeping their side needing a four off one last ball and Shenwari at the striking end.

The Fizz held Shenwari, who chucked the bat into the leg side but that hadn’t worked at all, breaking Afghans heart.

There was no reason to believe 8 off the last over would pose any particular difficulty even, having been behind the required run rate for much of their innings.

What they said

Afghanistan skipper Asghar Afghan congratulated to Bangladesh, terming the experience as ‘painful game’. “Painful game, 8 off 6 is not difficult because Rashid, Nabi, Shenwari can do it. But I will give credit to him [Fizz], he bowled his variations.”

Just after the win, the inspirational and always optimistic Bangladesh skipper Mashrafe Bin Moratza called his fellow pacer Mustafiz as ‘magician’. Mustafiz was a magician. We lost so many matches [where] couldn’t score 8-9 runs [in the last over] but we defended it today.”

The Afghans entered the last 5 overs needing 51 to win with 5 wickets in hand - if there was to be a charge at the victory, this was it. It was the way in which Mohammad Nabi and Samiullah Shenwari commenced the charge that must have rattled Tigers fans. The first four of those overs went 11-9-12-11. But importantly in the previous over, Shakib Al Hasan had managed to lure the dangerous Nabi into holing out (38 off 28) to break his breezy partnership with Shenwari.

Hoping to have a good crack at the virtual semi-final, Mashrafe also gave credit to his other players, who played vital role for the win and narrated his strategy.

“Hadn’t given up - Shakib bowled really well in his last three balls. After that, we told Mustafiz to look for wickets because they would have missed it. But first have to give credit to Mahmudullah and Imrul Kayes. Mustafiz cramped a bit, we wanted him to bowl 10 overs but he couldn’t. He [Fizz] couldn’t even bowl yorker because he had a cramp in his calf.

The big hitter and man of the match Mahmudullah said, “Weather was hot and I was feeling a bit dried up. But we did it in the end, credit must go to Mustafiz. We knew they had some good hitters, they held their nerve well but in the end, we came out on top, so a good team effort. It always feels happy to contribute to the team. Imrul and I had a good partnership. We were trying to get to the end. But in the end, it was the bowlers who defended it. We have to bring our A-game for the Pakistan match.”

However, with that day’s score of 33, Mushfiqur Rahim crossed the 5000-runs mark in ODIs, starting the game from a seven-run behind, after Tamim Iqbal and Shakib among Bangladesh players while becoming world’s 84th cricketer to achieve this feat. Mushfiq aggregated so far 5026 runs from 190 matches with an average of 33.73 runs.

The Tigers started their campaign with a huge 137-run win against 5-time Asian champions Sri Lanka in the tournament opener where Mushfiq [144] and Mohammad Mithun [63] played heroic role with their partnership innings of a131-run and retired-hut opener Tamim Iqbal’s spirited come back to fended away off Malinga, memorably holding the bat with his top hand grip, faced just one last ball of the 47th over before Mushfiq’s show of 16 balls served up 32.

Bangladesh qualified Super-Four stage with one match to spare and lost the Group ‘B’ dead-rubber against Afghanistan by 136-runs in Abu Dhabi before a ditch of elimination was appearing, losing against India by seven-wickets to start contending in the Super-Four stage.

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