Asia Cup: Mustafizur, Mushfiqur send Bangladesh into final
Mustafizur Rahman finished with 4 for 43. (Getty Images)

Bangladesh put up a clinical performance in the final Super 4 game of the 2018 Asia Cup, where they beat Pakistan by 37 runs to book themselves a place in the final. Reduced to 12 for 3, Mushfiqur Rahim‘s valuable 99, along with a crucial contribution from Mohammad Mithun, formed the spine of Bangladesh’s 239, after which the bowlers performed splendidly – especially Mustafizur Rahman (4/43) – to strangle the Pakistan innings and keep them to 202 for 9. Imam-Ul-Haq tried hard with a resilient 83, but once he perished, it shut the door on Pakistan’s chances.

The win has landed Bangladesh their second straight Asia Cup final, which will be played on Friday against India. Coincidentally, the same two teams had played out the final of the last Asia Cup in 2016.

From the moment Bangladesh were handed the ball, they seemed encouraged to make a match of this one. Remember, they had already lost Tamim Iqbal, and went into this match without Shakib Al Hasan, who has been ruled out due to a fractured finger. Still, their attack showed spunk. After being at the receiving end of some hostile spell of bowling from Pakistan in the first half of the game, they dished out a similar treatment to the opposition. Mustafizur and Mehidy Hasan had Pakistan reeling at 18 for three, with Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam and Sarfraz Ahmed all back inside four overs.

The onus was once again on Shoaib Malik to get the innings back on the track, and the experiences campaigner did not disappoint, putting on 67 for the fourth wicket with Imam. It required a special piece of effort to end the stand, which is exactly what skipper Mashrafe Mortaza provided. He plucked the ball out of thin air to send back Malik and Bangladesh were on top again.

That advantage was wrested by Imam and Asif Ali. After Shadab Khan laboured his way to four off 24, the two batsmen got together to stage a fight with an inspiring stand of 71. But Bangladesh kept mounting pressure through spin. Mehidy and Mahmudullah combined for three wickets in 20 overs, conceding 66. With the asking rate over eight, Pakistan pressed the panic button and lost both Asif and a well-set Imam in consecutive overs. Liton Das, keeping wickets in place of an injured Mushfiqur, had dropped Asif to an easy chance, but made up for it affecting stumpings of both batsmen. Mustafizur returned to pick up two more, but the scenario of knocking off 41 off the last two overs was out of Pakistan’s reach.

Bangladesh’s innings could be divided in three phases – overs 1 to 5, in which Junaid Khan and Shaheen Afridi restricted Bangladesh to 12/3. Overs 5 to 34, which saw Bangladesh stage a tremendous fightback courtesy a record 144-run stand. And finally, the final 15 overs, where Bangladesh lost the plot once both set batsmen departed. Playing his first game of the Asia Cup 2018, Junaid showcased a fine display of fast bowling to finish with 4 for 19.

Pakistan made a bold call picking Junaid over Amir in one of the more important games for them in the tournament. But the left-arm pacer responded well. He sent back both openers, cleaning up Liton Das to a peach of a delivery. Afridi did the same to Mominul Haque and suddenly, Bangladesh had their most experienced batsman – Mushfiqur – out there. In the absence of Shakib, the supporting role was performed by Mohammad Mithun. Through them, Bangladesh weathered the storm and fought back. Mushfiqur and Mithun matched each other shot for shot and put on the highest fourth-wicket stand for Bangladesh against Pakistan.

Both batsmen reached their half-centuries, setting Bangladesh up for a big total. But their dismissals arrived at crucial moments. Mithun had scored nine boundaries before playing a lose shot to Hasan Ali. Mushfiqur looked on course to bring up his second century of the tournament, but fell one short of it, making him the first Bangladesh batsman to get out for 99. Pakistan then hit back by reintroducing Junaid and Afridi towards the end, who stifled the run-rate towards the end. Between overs 44 to 48, Pakistan gave away only 16 runs with Junaid returning to pick up two more. Mortaza hit Bangladesh’s only six in the 49th over, which was also the final of the innings.

Brief score: Bangladesh 239 all out (Mushfiqur Rahim 99, Mohammad Mithun 60; Junaid Khan 4/19) beat Pakistan 202/9 (Imam Ul Haq 83, Asif Ali 31, Mustafizur Rahman 4/43) by 37 runs to set up summit clash with India.