Mushfiqur, Mustafizur thrust Bangladesh into Asia Cup final
There won’t be another India versus Pakistan in the 2018 Asia Cup after all. In an implicit semifinal at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, Bangladesh beat Pakistan by 37 runs on Wednesday (September 26) to set a finale date with India. Mushfiqur Rahim’s 99 helped set Pakistan a 240-run target, which proved a bridge too far to cross in the face of a four-wicket haul by Mustafizur Rahman.
The fact that Bangladesh fared so well in the absence of Shakib Al Hasan, who was laid up by his recurrent finger injury, is a testament to their ever improving temperament. Having lost their top three batsmen for only 12 runs, thanks to returning Junaid Khan and Shaheen Afridi wreaking havoc at the top, Bangladesh built their way back into the game courtesy a 144-run stand between Rahim and Mohammad Mithun. The duo paced up well with Pakistan spinners, who bowled quick on a well-grassed wicket. First-change Hasan Ali was equally complicit in the growing stand, failing to keep up the pressure built by the opening bowlers.
It was Hasan who eventually broke the stand, getting Mithun to top-edge a pull but the inflection point arrived with the wicket of Rahim, who fell one short of his hundred while trying to drive Afridi. Junaid, brought into the side at the cost of Mohammad Amir’s second layoff of the tournament, added two more wickets to his tally, razing out Mahmudullah and Mehidy Hasan to finish with 4 for 19 and bundle Bangladesh out for 239 in 48.5 overs. The last five wickets fell for only 42 runs.
Pakistan also lost three early wickets while chasing. Mehidy Hasan opened the bowling to a circumspect Fakhar Zaman, getting the batsman on nought to open the gates. Mustafizur then struck in successive overs to account for Babar Azam with an LBW and Sarfraz Ahmed with an edge behind the wicket, leaving Pakistan reeling at 18 for 3 inside four overs.
Shoaib Malik, in association with Imam-ul-Haq, put 67 runs for the fourth wicket but his wicket by Rubel Hossain, thanks to a stunning take by Mashrafe Mortaza at short midwicket, meant that the onus was on Imam, who put up a lone fight from thereon. Shadab Khan was promoted above Asif Ali but failed to get going, consuming 24 balls for his 4 runs before becoming Soumya Sarkar’s maiden ODI wicket.
Pakistan lost out on allowing the non-regular bowlers in Soumya and Mahmudullah to flourish, meaning Bangladesh didn’t miss Shakib as much as they should have. Asif Ali, dropped on 22 by stand-in wicketkeeper Liton Das, did put up a 70-run stand for the sixth wicket with Imam, allowing Pakistan a shot at the target, but both fell in consecutive overs. Asif was stumped off an away-drifter by Mehidy while Imam, the top-scorer of the innings and Pakistan’s only hope then, was stumped by Mahmudullah’s one-finger slider; Liton Das completed both the stumpings to make for the dropped catch. It was a formality after that.