India Retain Asia Cup in a Thriller
The Indian batsmen kept their nerves to take their side to the finish line off the very last ball, to lift the 2018 Asia Cup at the Dubai International Stadium.
India won by 3 wickets
Bangladesh 222/10 (48.3 Ov)
India 223/7 (49.6 Ov)
India defended their title amidst great support in the ground, dancing, chanting and fireworks. Although defending a rather modest total of 222, Bangladesh fought like tigers and remarkably the contest went into the final over. India required 6 off the last over bowled by Mahmudullah after fellow pacemen, Rubel Hossain (2-26) and Mustafizur Rahman (2-38) had put in an outstanding effort in the death overs, to keep the contest alive. No praise is high enough for Bangladesh, now three times runners up of Asia Cup. It was an old-fashioned low scoring thriller - reminiscent of the ODI games in its early days of the 1970s and 1980s - and was a perfect end to the six-nation tournament.
Barring a miracle, India, were overwhelmingly favourites to win the 2018 Asia Cup. Bangladesh, by beating Sri Lanka in the group stages and overcoming both Afghanistan and Pakistan, in the Super Four stages, were India’s opponent in the final. The fearless approach of the powerful Indian batting line-up and spin variety galore, was thought to be too much for a spirited Bangladesh bowling attack, with no claims to world-class. Former England wicket-keeper Steve Rhodes, who took over as Head Coach of Bangladesh in January, would have reminded his charges of five previous ODI wins against India, in order to motivate the team for the big day.
India, presently led by opening batsman Rohit Sharma, were seeking their record sixth title in Asia Cup ODIs (India also won T20 Asia Cup in 2016), the third most prestigious 50-over tournament, besides ICC World Cup and ICC Champions Trophy. They have come a long way since winning the first edition of the Asia Cup, held in Sharjah, UAE in March 1984. In fact, India emerged as winner in four out of the first five tournaments, followed by a lull of 15 years, a period in which Pakistan and Sri Lanka were much stronger outfits than India.
Today, Bangladesh were asked to bat first and were given the perfect start by openers Liton Das and Mehidy Hasan Miraz. They went about their business in a positive fashion as the Indian bowlers, particularly the pacemen, struggled to contain the flow of runs. India felt the pressure when the partnership had reached 120, with scoring rate close to six runs per over and, Bangladesh at that stage, could realistically think of 250 plus score. At that point Mehidy’s innings of 32 came to an end when the batsman drove off spinner Kedar Jadhav to Ambati Rayudu at cover point. His dismissal sparked a collapse where the next four batsmen – Imrul Kayes, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mohammad Mithun and Mahmudullah – all failed to reach double figures. The Indian spinners simply strangled the opposition by both containing and prizing out the entire middle order. Bangladesh were crippled with the loss of four wickets for 19 runs in 7.1 overs
Holding one end up, Liton Das, with a previous best of 41 in 17 ODIs and now needing just 33 for his hundred, had the extra burden on his shoulder to bat through with the lower order. Not an easy task against an accomplished side like India and also in the Final of the Asia Cup. He did his best and having reached a maiden international hundred, the 23-year old right-handed batsman, was stumped down the leg side whilst trying to flick a googly from Kuldeep Yadav, for a superb knock of 121 off 117 balls with 12 fours and 2 sixes. One could not ask for a better innings in the final of a tournament and Das was rightly adjudged Man of the Match. Despite that, the Bangladesh score of 188-7 in 41 overs, when he was out was disappointing, especially after the strong platform built at the start.
A spirited 32 from Soumya Sarka took the total to 222, at least 50 runs short of what would have given them a fighting chance to upset the odds.
India continue to back their young talent and in picking leg-break Yuzvendra Chahal and slow left-arm chinaman Kuldeep Yadav, it had once again shown its positive intent. The days of an Indian captain and management being reluctant to adopt a daring approach, are now part of history.
After a brisk start, the Indian innings went into a more conventional mode. By claiming the key wicket of captain Rohit Sharma, third out with the score having reached 83 in the 17th over, pace bowler Rubel Hossain gave Bangladesh a glimmer of hope. In came 37-year old M.S. Dhoni, an all-time great Indian wicket-keeper batsman, who has seen it all and was making his 327th ODI appearance. Cool as a cucumber, he was determined to see India through and add yet more silverware to its ever growing collection. Remarkably still averaging 50+ he had a 54-run stand for the 4th wicket with Dinesh Karthik. He was fifth out at 160 with his contribution being 36 and India requiring another 63 runs off 13.5 overs. Little did anyone anticipate the drama that was to unfold in the last stages of the match.
India - Rohit Sharma(c), Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni(wk), Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah
Bangladesh - Liton Das, Soumya Sarkar, Mushfiqur Rahim(wk), Mohammad Mithun, Imrul Kayes, Mahmudullah, Mehedi Hasan, Mashrafe Mortaza(c), Nazmul Islam, Rubel Hossain, Mustafizur Rahman
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