Dhaka – Bangladesh’s quest to win their first Asia Cup got off to a rousing start in Dubai on Saturday night, as they completed a 137-run victory over a hapless Sri Lanka that leaves the Tigers in pole position to qualify out of their group. Bangladesh’s dominance was every bit as comprehensive as the margin of victory suggests, having outplayed the 5-time Asian champions – admittedly in a phase of transition, with the back-to-back departures of some stalwarts – in every department of the game.
The opening game of this year’s tournament, the biggest Asia Cup till now having expanded to 6 nations for its 14th edition, will be remembered for the valiant and ultimately matchwinning century scored by Bangladesh’s Mushfiqur Rahim, who arrived in the middle after wickets fell in the very first over and was last man out for a brilliant 144 (150b, 11 x 4s, 4 x 6s) off the third ball of the 50th over.
It was Mushfiq’s 6th century in ODIs, as well as his highest. The first part of it was spent rebuilding an innings in tatters as he walked in, with the scorecard reading 3/2. Very soon that effectively became 3/3, as Tamim Iqbal, the country’s most prolific batsman in all three formats of the game, had to retire hurt after being struck on the knuckles off a Suranga Lakmal delivery.
We now know that Tamim will miss the rest of the tournament and could be out for 6 weeks with a fractured wrist. But before that the story did take a more spirited and admirable turning towards the end of the Bangladesh innings, aiding Mushfiqur’s heroics, that we will come to later. Before that, Bangladesh’s regular wicketkeeper and arguably its best middle-order batsman was staring down the barrell as he took to the task of getting the innings back on track to some respectability at least.
His principal partner in this would be one who was selected in the XI today very much as his understudy, Md Mithun, to don the gloves and allow Mushfiq to play as a specialist batsman. Both went on to fit their roles with such aplomb and diligence, that Mithun was even spared the gloves job. The 131-run partnership they shared featured superb temperaments, an innate intelligence in judging when to attack and defend, and superb running between the wickets. And no dearth of lusty blows to and over the boundary, particularly from Mushfiqur, who was on to an epic.
It took the initial wrecker-in-chief, wily old Lasith Malinga, to return and break the partnership, Mithun [63 off 68b; 5×4; 2×6] swinging wildly and tiredly, only to spoon a catch on the offside. As is so often the case with the Tigers, it triggered something of a collapse, as Malinga and Amila Aponso struck successive blows to reduce Bangladesh to 142/5 (but effectively 6 down, with the Tamim situation).
Mushfiq was running out of partners, before Mehidy Hasan Miraz [15off 21b] and skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza [11 off 18b; 2×4] did spend some time at the crease and the innings chugged past the 200 mark, with 7 wickets down. Mushfiq meanwhile reached his century off 123 balls.
When Mustafiz departed in the 47th over, the scorecard read 229/9 and it could’ve been it. But that is when out walked Tamim Iqbal, only one good hand to hold the bat, but up for it, for the team to try and play out the 50. Maybe support Mushy to add another 10-15 runs.
The return on this heroic act, courtesy of Mushfiq’s determination to pay his mate back, was enough to lift Bangladesh beyond the reach of the Lankans, who watched demoralized as the next 16 balls served up 32 runs to the team total. Tamim, memorably holding the bat with his top hand grip, would face just one of those, the last ball of the 47th, that he fended away off Malinga. After that it was the Mushy show.
The 48th over went for 15, as Mushfiq tore into Perera, and for good measure, made sure he kept the strike for the 49th. Shanaka would restrict him, conceding just 5, but that did include the single to keep the strike for the start of the 50th. Perera again, would go 6-6-OUT, thanks to a screamer at long on that prevented it from being 6-6-6.
By then, the score had progressed to 261, far exceeding par for the course in Dubai, and beyond the wildest expectations of even diehard Tigers fans, only about 3 hours earlier. As Tamim and Mushfiqur walked off the ground, there was a sense of the heroic filling the evening desert air, and the majority Bangladeshi crowd’s applause rose to match their heroes.
Sri Lanka were visibly demoralized and never recovered.
With the day’s win, Bangladesh take one step forward get into last-four stage and will play the next and last group match against ICC’s new full-member nation Afghanistan in Abu Dhabi onSeptember 20(Thursday).
Bangladesh restricted Sri Lanka on124 for all as the 1st breakthrough maker pace bowler Mustafizur Rahman [2/20], young all-rounder Mehidy Hasan Miraz [2/21] and skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza [2/25] daunted the opponent batsmen, allowing to play only 35.2 overs, equally sharing six wickets for the team.
Number-eight batsman Dilruwan Perera [29 off 44b; 2×6], opener Upul Tharanga [27 off 16b; 4×4; 1×6], Suranga Lakmal [20 off 25b; 1×4; 1x], skipper Angelo Mathews[16 off 34b] andwicketkeeper batsman Kusal Perera[11 off 24b; 2×4] were the double digit scorers for Sri Lanka.
Young all-rounder Mosaddek Hossain [1/8], senior pace bowler Rubel Hossain[1/18] and Shakib Al Hasan [1/31] equally shared three wickets for the remaining job of bowling department.UNB