Mahmudullah's 32 not out helped guide Bangladesh to victory against Sri Lanka, and a spot in the Asia Cup final
Bangladesh made it to the final of the Asia Cup, defying pre-tournament expectations with consecutive victories against their more fancied neighbours. It was only the second time they had reached the finals of a one-day tournament. The bowlers restricted Sri Lanka to 232, but rain siphoned off ten overs and reduced the target to 212. The increased asking-rate, 5.30 an over, gave both teams a chance, but enterprising batting by Tamim Iqbal on a spiced-up pitch gave their chase a kickstart. The Bangladesh middle order withstood the pressure and gave the expectant crowd a reason to show up in similar numbers for the final, on Thursday. Nasir Hossain proved once again why he is the find of the season for Bangladesh and Tamim put the farce of his earlier non-selection to rest. Nasir’s calm half-century partnership with Mahmudullah ensured Bangladesh did not implode in the rush for a quick finish. The sea of green jerseys in the crowd were rewarded for staying in their seats even as Sri Lanka clawed back. Many clasped their hands in prayer once Bangladesh lost their fifth wicket, Shakib Al Hasan, but the temperament of the sixth-wicket pair showed why Bangladesh could start the finals not as underdogs, but contenders. India, waiting on the result of this game, will be headed home.
Nasir Hossain jumps in celebration of Bangladesh's win, Bangladesh v Sri Lanka, Asia Cup, Mirpur, March 20, 2012
Sri Lanka were pegged back at the very beginning, when another Hossain – Nazmul – coming in for the injured Shafiul Islam, nipped out three top-order wickets. The middle order, led by Chamara Kapugedera, gave the innings some respectability, but weren’t able to post a challenging score to match the pattern in the last two games. The mid-innings downpour gave the pitch the kind of zip missing during the afternoon. Lasith Malinga tested the top order with bouncers fizzing past the helmet, while Nuwan Kulasekara got the ball to swerve in to the right-handers to castle Nazimuddin and flummox the captain Mushfiqur Rahim.
Shakib Al Hasan whips one away on the on side, Bangladesh v Sri Lanka, Asia Cup, Mirpur, March 20, 2012
Bangladesh were three down for 40, but the passage of play was punctuated by some blistering strokeplay by Tamim. His balance and follow-through were exemplary, especially in his driving through the off side. Mahela Jayawardene tried to plug that gap with a short point, and later with two fielders up close at cover and extra cover, but Tamim was not deterred. He lofted one over the covers and then whipped consecutive boundaries through midwicket, showing his class on both sides of the wicket. Shakib, following an examination with the short delivery, which he settled into more risk-free batting, crashing Suranga Lakmal for three consecutive boundaries through the off side. Tamim reached his half-century with a clip for four off Farveez Maharoof, and his pleasing strokeplay won the applause of the country’s premiere Sheikh Hasina, also in attendance. He was dropped by Sachitra Senanayake, after lobbing a simple chance back to the bowler, but Senanayake finally got his man when an uppish slash was taken at point. Tamim walked back to a hush from the expectant crowd, with their hopes pinned on Shakib.
Sachithra Senanayake is congratulated on dismissing Shakib Al Hasan, Bangladesh v Sri Lanka, Asia Cup, Mirpur
Shakib’s battle with Senanayake was a compelling one. Shakib got on top of him initially with boundaries over extra cover, but once the bowler shortened his length, the batsman became a walking wicket. Unsure of the bounce, he stabbed at two consecutive deliveries and nearly lobbed it back on the full to the bowler. Senanayake got one to skid through and trapped him in front of leg to give Sri Lanka hope, with the hosts still 77 adrift. Sri Lanka were guilty of easing the pressure on the batsmen by feeding balls full on the pads, which were clipped away to fine leg. Nasir and Mahmudullah kept out the inswinging yorkers, didn’t panic when they played the ball back to the fielders, and calmly picked up the singles. Tillakaratne Dilshan was brought on after the seamers failed to nip out wickets, but the pair didn’t change their approach. A firm push by Nasir was parried by mid-on to the boundary, leading to wild celebrations and a victory lap. The win was set up by Nazmul, who removed the power trio of Jayawardene, Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara. Jayawardene missed a straight one, Dilshan chopped on a delivery onto his stumps and Sangakkara spooned a catch to extra cover, bringing an end to an indifferent season with the bat. Bangladesh came out with a sense of purpose, fielding with intent after winning the toss. They were aided by a surface which, though not the same used for the India-Pakistan game, appeared slower and suited their crop of bowlers. The seamers bowled several slower deliveries to tighten the noose on the run-rate. Kapugedera and Lahiru Thirimanne added 88 for the fourth wicket, but one of them needed to bat through the innings to set a competitive target. Upul Tharanga made a breezy fifty, but not for the first time since his demotion, he had to repair the damage done upfront, again raising questions about the structure of the batting line-up.
The covers come on at the Shere Bangla Stadium, Bangladesh v Sri Lanka, Asia Cup, Mirpur, March 20, 2012
Kapugedera, under pressure to keep his place, made good use of his promotion, using his feet to the spinners. A stroke of luck, though, gave Bangladesh the breakthrough when Thirimanne nudged Abdur Razzak off his pads and was stumped after the ball deflected off Mushfiqur’s pads. Tharanga’s arrival perked up the scoring, as he punished a wayward Shahadat for three quick boundaries. Kapugedera managed a face-saving half-century, but his innings was cut short by some sharp reflexes by Shakib at extra cover. Shakib struck with the ball soon after, getting two wickets. Boundaries by the lower order pushed Sri Lanka to 232, but one could sense that was always going to be inadequate. It ended a mixed season for a travel-weary Sri Lanka, following the highs of Australia. Not too long ago, India were at their hotel rooms in Brisbane, hoping for a Sri Lankan defeat to push them into the CB Series finals. This time in a hotel not far from the ground, they were ironically hoping for a Sri Lankan win. There were no back-door entries for a team which has suffered its worst away season in recent history.
Nazmul dented the top order with three wickets and gave Bangladesh early control
Sri Lanka 232 (49.5 ov) Bangladesh 212/5 (37.1/40 ov, target 212) Bangladesh won by 5 wickets (with 17 balls remaining) (D/L method)
A Sri Lanka win will end Bangladesh’s Asia Cup, one the hosts spiced up through their thrilling chase against India that kept their qualification hopes alive and prevented Sunday’s India-Pakistan encounter from becoming a mere dress rehearsal for the final...