Pakistan were crowned Asia Cup Champions, for only the second time, after defeating Bangladesh in a final over spectacle that had fans holding their breaths.
Bangladesh, who have performed exceptionally well throughout the tournament, beating both India and Sri Lanka, fell two agonising runs short of winning their first major competition.
Man of the Series and Bangladesh player, Shakib Al Hasan, said: “If we look at the overall tournament, we were terrific. The teamwork has been terrific, the way the crowd supported us was fantastic too.”
Bangladesh Captain, Mushfiqur Rahim, won the toss, much to the delight of the Mirpur fans, decided to bowl first, stating that Pakistan will be vulnerable since it is the first time the two sides have met in a final.
Rahim, couldn’t have asked for a better start from his bowlers, as they removed opener Nasir Jamshed and veteran Younis Khan early into the Pakistan innings.
With the score standing at 19 runs for the loss of two key wickets, Mohammad Hafeez and Captain Misbah-ul-Haq, worked hard to stabilise the innings, as they communicated well, ran hard between the wickets and took advantage of any short pitched deliveries.
With the pair starting to look settled at the crease, Captain Rahim, was starting to get a little nervous, and encouraged his team to keep the fielding and bowling tight.
His little pep talk worked almost immediately, as Nasir Hossain, brilliantly ran out Captain Misbah-ul-Haq, ending his innings on 13, while also breaking the 36 run partnership.
Hafeez, however, was still looking to be in good touch, despite the constant fall of wickets. He concentrated on keeping the scoreboard ticking with quick runs and boundaries.
However, just as Hafeez was nearing his half century, he was kept under constant pressure by the Bangladesh players, and soon gave in, as he tried to lift one over the top, which ended up falling in the hands of mid-on.
With Hafeez back in the pavilion after making 40 runs, Hammad Azam and Umar Akmal combined together to provide a new spark of life the Pakistan innings desperately needed.
The pair were constantly rotating the strike, which helped boost their confidence, as Bangladesh started to lose their dominant grip on the Pakistan innings.
The pair took advantage of the situation and started to attack the Bangladesh bowling attack, providing Pakistan with some much-needed runs.
However, just as the pair had registered their fifty partnership, Bangladesh were rewarded with the wicket of Azam, who was caught and bowled off a slog-sweep attempt, thus ending the excellent 59 run partnership he and Akmal had put together.
The Pakistan fans erupted as Shahid Afridi stepped out to the crease, but, before Afridi could get settled in and start making a partnership, Akmal was dismissed for 30 runs.
Afridi and Sarfraz Ahmed, knowing that the number of overs Pakistan had left were running low, entertained the crowd with some big hits, while the Bangladesh players could only watch the ball go sailing to the boundary.
Afridi and Ahmed worked in tandem, running hard between the wickets and smashing boundaries, as the partnership between the pair, rapidly increased.
However, just as the pair were looking to cross the half century mark, Afridi was caught after trying to play one big shot too many, ending the 45 run partnership, much to the disappointment of Pakistan fans.
Afridi, who picked up the 29th Man of the Match award of his career, passed Saeed Anwar as the Pakistan player with the most match awards, and said: “Bangladesh really played well, and I worked hard on my bowling. The credit goes to guys like Shakib and Nasir, they really played some good cricket. I tried my level best with the bat. I worked hard.”
Meanwhile, Ahmed, was playing the innings of his life, as he trashed just about everything from the Bangladesh bowlers.
But, with the fall of Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal, Ahmed was left unbeaten on 46 runs, after claiming 19 vital runs in the final over.
Mashrafe Mortaza, Shakib Al Hasan and Abdur Razzak, all took two wickets for Bangladesh, while, Nazmul Hossain and Mohammad Mahmudullah picked up a wicket each, as Bangladesh restricted Pakistan to 236.
With a relatively simple target of 237 to win, Bangladesh were looking to get off to a solid start, which is exactly what they did.
Openers Tamim Iqbal and Mohammed Nazimuddin, played well together, as they guided Bangladesh in the right direction to achieving to historic win.
Iqbal, seemed to be on top of his game, as he went on the offensive against the Pakistan bowlers, smacking boundary after boundary, much to the frustration of Captain Misbah-ul-Haq.
Nazimuddin, on the other hand, seemed to be struggling, as he found it extremely difficult to find the gaps and take runs.
However, even though Nazimuddin was having a tough time, the pair still worked effectively, as their partnership soon passed the half century mark.
Iqbal, brought up his fourth half century in four consecutive ODI matches, making him the only Bangladeshi batsman to accomplish the feat.
Meanwhile, Pakistan continued to pressurize Nazimuddin, who was not looking comfortable at all, and it wasn’t before he was caught out, ending the 68 run partnership that he and Iqbal had worked so hard for.
Pakistan, however, were not done yet, as they delivered two more quick strikes, removing Jahurul Islam and then the prize wicket of Iqbal, sending the batting lineup a message that they were not going down without a fight.
With Bangladesh in a spot of trouble, Shakib Al Hasan and Nasir Hossain, started to mount a comeback, scoring as fast as they possibly could, which started to decrease the required run-rate.
Misbah-ul-Haq, watched in absolute shock, as Al Hasan and Hossain, started to bring Bangladesh back into the game, giving them a new injection of hope.
Captain ul-Haq, tried to do everything he could to break the ever increasing partnership, but, it was no good, as the pair were determined to push Bangladesh forward.
Soon enough, Al Hasan started to go on a batting frenzy, hammering boundary after boundary, which soon brought up his half century.
With the partnership continuing to grow, and Captain ul-Haq looking more and more concerned, the game started to become extremely close.
But, just as Al Hasan and Hossain were looking to take their partnership past the century mark, Pakistan were finally rewarded with a breakthrough, as Hossain was caught out.
Hossain and Al Hasan’s partnership of 89, is the second-highest fourth-wicket stand for Bangladesh, in the history of the Asia Cup.
With Hossain and Al Hasan’s partnership ended on 89, Pakistan, dealt another major blow to Bangladesh, as they got rid of Al Hasan on 68, after he tried to heave the ball over the infield.
With the major batting threats back in the pavilion, Pakistan started to remove the Bangladesh lower order with relative ease.
However, a spirited 28 run partnership between Mashrafe Mortaza and Mohammad Mahmudullah, at a run-rate of 11.20, gave Bangladesh a huge boost and the potential to grab the match out of Pakistan’s hands.
But, with continuous strikes, Pakistan still kept themselves alive, as the match went down to Bangladesh needing nine runs from the final over.
As Bangladesh entered the final over, they looked to try and club the ball to the boundary, but, thanks to an excellent line and length from Aizaz Cheema, Bangladesh found their task much harder to accomplish.
Bangladesh worked their way through the over, which included yet another wicket, and soon were handed the situation where they needed four runs off the last ball.
There was a hushed silence amongst the crowd as Cheema ran in to deliver the final delivery, which rapped Shahadat Hossain on the leg, resulting in only one leg bye, which gave Pakistan a two run victory.
Thus began the celebrations, as Pakistan huddled in the middle of the field, full of joy and smiles, while Bangladesh were reduced to dejection and tears.
The two run win for Pakistan is the closest margin of victory in the tournament’s history.
Aizaz Cheema was the star of the Pakistan bowling attack, as he took three wickets, but, he was well supported by Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal, who picked up two wickets each, while Shahid Afridi, chipped in with a wicket of his own.
Bangladesh Captain, Mushfiqur Rahim, was in tears as he still could not believe that his team had lost by just two runs. “Before the tournament, we had great preparation but the boys stuck to the plans. We played good in the tournament I thought. The wicket is a bit slowish, it’s not easy to score runs, Tamim and Shakib played well. We gave away some runs in the last over, that was crucial. It’s been a great tournament for Shakib, Tamim, Mashrafe, Razzak and Nasir. We fought in all the games and we achieved a lot in this tournament. Shakib and Tamim were both set batsmen and their wickets were the turning point” he said.
Captain Misbah-ul-Haq, who has in the news recently about speculation that he will be sacked as Captain after this tournament, was all smiles about the result of the match. “Wonderful victory, well fought by all guys, the youngsters came in and contributed well. Sarfraz’s innings was a vital one for us. This wicket was a little different from the other ones, it was slow. We were hoping that around 225-230 would be a fighting a score. The spinners bowled very well, the pacers did well in the end. Bangladesh played wonderfully well, this is really a new Bangladesh team and they are really the winners” he said.
With Pakistan proving their dominance once again, they will look to continue their red hot streak when they take on the Sri Lankans towards the latter half of May. Bangladesh, meanwhile, can feel extremely proud that their team got this far in the tournament, and they will be looking to develop their team even further during their long break.