Asia Cup 2018 was played in September in the United Arab Emirates among the 5 ICC full members - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka. Hong Kong, the associate that won the 2018 Asia Cup qualifier, joined as the sixth team. Abu Dhabi and Dubai cricket grounds were the venues for all the matches.
The tournament consisted of two groups of 3 teams. The top two teams from each group then proceeded to the Super Four section of the competition where they played each other to decide the top two finalists. Bangladesh managed to stretch India till the last ball in the finals but failed to register their maiden title victory in Asia Cup.
Bangladesh is clearly not the best team in Asia. But they entered the Asia Cup looking prepared to topple a few top teams. Before this tournament, Bangladesh had reached and lost the finals of Asia Cup twice, once each in ODI and T20 instance of the tournament. Both times to India.
Having grouped with Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, Bangladesh must have fancied an easy entry into the Super Four section of the tournament. Attacking Tamim at the top and Mushfiqur to guide the batting in the middle, Bangladesh’s batting looked settled. They had in Shakib Al Hasan, one of the best all-rounders in the world. And with fit-again Mustafizur Rehman returning to the side, Bangladesh must have fancied their chances to go all the way.
The first match did not start well for Bangladesh though. After losing two wickets in the first over to Lasith Malinga, Tamim Iqbal had to leave the field with an injured left wrist and soon Bangladesh were effectively 3 for 3 by the end of the second over.
Mushfiqur, the backbone of this Bangladesh batting line-up, took matters into his own hands and marshaled the inning along with Mohammad Mithun to a stage from where they could hope for a decent total. At 229 for 9, Tamim Iqbal made a heroic comeback and batted with one hand while centurion Mushfiqur propelled the innings to respectable 261.
Some fine bowling and Sri Lanka’s lackluster performance with the bat meant Bangladesh winning by a huge margin of 137 runs. Bangladesh went into the Super Four stage of the tournament undefeated as Afghanistan could not pose any resistance in the second group match.
Super Four stage was always going to be tough as the Asian giants India and Pakistan had qualified from the other group. Bangladesh folded feebly against India and avoided a scare against Afghanistan to defend a decent total by just 3 runs.
Bangladesh was not firing and on top of that, they lost Shakib Al Hasan to a figure injury before the virtual semifinal against Pakistan. They were basically without their prime opening batsman Tamim and best all-rounder Shakib in the most important match of the series. Their chances looked slim.
Mushfiqur came to the rescue again. He along with Mohammad Mithun dug the Bangladesh inning out of the hole once again to get to a fighting 239 against Pakistan. The tactical ploy of opening the bowling with Mehidy Hasan Miraz did wonders as he removed dangerous Fakhar Zaman in the first over. Mustafizur then broke the back of Pakistan innings to reduce them to 18 for 3. Bangladesh never really allowed Pakistan to recover from that position and won the match by 37 runs to reach the finals against India.
In the finals, Bangladesh made another tactical ploy that surprised India. Mehidy Hasan Miraz opened the batting for Bangladesh. Liton das too found his touch and started accelerating from the word go. The ploy worked. Bangladesh were 122 for no loss and were looking to take the heat to India. But a collapsed ensued and they were reduced to 222 by the end of the innings of which Das scored 121.
Bangladesh did not give up though. As India lost wickets at regular intervals they believed they can win this. But lower order cameos and Kedar Jadhav’s nerveless finish of the last ball ensured India retained the Asia Cup trophy.
Bangladesh lost to Pakistan in the finals in 2012 by just 2 runs. And here they lost it by a whisker on the last ball of the match. They are getting closer. They will someday achieve it.
They must believe in themselves. With the return of Tamim and Shakib they should look to build a team that would pose similar questions to other teams in the ODI World Cup in England in 2019. They are progressing and can pose serious questions to top teams in the world. Bangladesh should be proud of their efforts in this Asia Cup.
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