“There was disappointment among the crowd, there were some teary eyes too, some stood motionless in shock whereas some people wanted to leave the stadium as soon as possible. The Tigers were so near yet turned out to be so far in the end”
It was time for Bangladesh
Bangladesh had always been the punching bag for the other three Test-playing nations—India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka—when it came to competing in the Asia Cup. There was always a stark difference between them and the other teams’ skills, temperament and class.
Yet Bangladesh would often surprise everyone with certain moments of brilliance. But what they lacked was the ability to produce and bind those moments together in a consistent manner. That was the reason they stumbled every time match after match, year after year.
However, the year 2012 saw the rise of a new Bangladeshi team. One that was not only able to challenge the so-called giants but also started killing them, that too consistently. And it all started with the Asia Cup in that very year.
The tournament was returning to Bangladesh for the third time. It was no less than a festival for the crazy cricket fans of the country. One could see the hopes and dreams for a totally different performance from Bangladesh in their eyes.
Bangladesh give Pakistan the scare
But they were once again drawn back to reality when Bangladesh suffered a defeat at the hands of Pakistan in the opening game of the tournament. It was a much narrower defeat than the previous editions though. They lost by 21 runs after failing to chase down Pakistan’s total of 262/8. Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal had shown good fights with individual scores of 64 but there was nothing else after that Barring another impressive score of 47 from Nasir Hossain.
Sri Lanka lose
As India took on Sri Lanka in the next match at the same venue in Mirpur, sparks were once again expected to fly. Fans were expecting a dazzling contest between the two most successful teams of the tournament. But what they got in return was a dominating performance from India.
After Virat Kohli’s fabulous innings of 108 launched them to a score of 304/3, it was Irfan Pathan’s intriguing spell of 4/32 that helped in bowling Sri Lanka out for 254 runs.
This tournament turned out to be one of the worst for the Islanders as they lost their next match against Pakistan as well. They lost by 6 wickets after Aizaz Cheema’s spell of 4/43 had bowled them out for a paltry 188 runs in the first inning. Kumar Sangakkara had fought valiantly for his knock of 71 runs off 92 deliveries but there was no support for him from others.
It was going all too predictable until now. There was nothing surprising. It was the same old thing all over again as the two giants India and Pakistan looked all set to make it to the finals.
But there was a twist in the tale this time.
Bangladesh beat India
It was time for the Tigers to rise. Their roar had finally been heard after 26 long years. They were here to take everything and everyone down in their way. And that started with their encounter against India.
Sachin Tendulkar’s knock of 114 runs had helped India to a total of 289/5. It certainly didn’t look enough as compared to the standards of the time but it did look enough to defend against a team like Bangladesh. Little did they know that the Tigers were about to prove them wrong.
A steady knock of 70 runs from Tamim Iqbal, Individual fifties from Jahurul Islam and Nasir Hossain and two scores of 40-odd runs from Shakib and Mushfiqur Rahim sealed the deal for Bangladesh with four deliveries and five wickets to spare. In fact, it was Mushfiqur’s swashbuckling knock of 46 runs off just 25 deliveries that turned the game around for Bangladesh.
It was a moment that the Bangladeshi fans had thoroughly enjoyed. This was their biggest victory against India after the one in 2007 World Cup. It was their moment and nothing could take it away from them.
India beat Pakistan, again!
The Indian fans were disappointed but they had nothing to say as it was truly a splendid performance from the hosts. But Virat Kohli provided them with a treat in the next match against arch-rivals Pakistan that made them forget this defeat momentarily.
Pakistan had posted a commanding total of 329/6 on the board riding on twin centuries from their openers Mohammad Hafeez and Nasir Jamshed. Being unbeaten in the tournament till then, they thought that they had the match. It looked like so when they got the wicket of Gautam Gambhir early in the innings and reduced India to 0/1.
But once Kohli walked out in the middle there was no stopping. He switched a partnership of 133 runs with Tendulkar first and then went on to stitch another dominating partnership of 170 runs with Rohit Sharma. Both Tendulkar and Sharma played the second fiddle to Kohli as he smashed the ball all around the park.
It was a magical innings which showed his class as a player. A 183 runs off just 148 deliveries was what he scored and it was more than fifty percent of the team runs. He departed with just 13 more runs required in 3 overs but Dhoni and Raina had it covered. India finally won by 6 wickets as a result of this masterclass from Kohli.
On the other hand, Bangladesh once again spurred a surprise as they trumped Sri Lanka as well in the final league match. After restricting Sri Lanka to a modest total of 232 runs, they chased down the reduced target of 212 runs by D/L method with 16 deliveries and five wickets to spare. Tamim and Shakib once again mastered the chase with individual fifties.
At the end of the stage, all of Pakistan, Bangladesh and India had won two and lost one whereas Sri Lanka had lost all three. But Pakistan were placed at the top courtesy one bonus point more. India and Bangladesh were tied at 8 points but India had a better net run rate. However, it was Bangladesh who qualified for the final against Pakistan as they had the privilege of beating India in the group stage. Head to head wins were taken into account here.
Bangladesh move to the finals
For the first time in the history of the tournament, Bangladesh had sealed a place in the finale. More importantly, it was the first time that a team other than India, Pakistan or Sri Lanka had reached the final.
It was a tremendous achievement for them and it became even more special having come at home. Now, all they needed to do was to carry the momentum into the final match. But the last time the tournament was played in Bangladesh, it was Pakistani had won the Trophy. So, they had that mental edge too.
The thrilling encounter at Dhaka!
And it turned out to be quite the final that is shown in Bollywood movies centred around cricket. Pakistan could only manage a total of 236/9 as a result of some tight and quality bowling from Bangladesh. Everyone was backing the Tigers to chase this down considering the way they had performed in the entire tournament.
The match started on a bright note for them with the openers stitching together a stand of 68 runs. But they lost 3 quick wickets after that to be reduced to 81/3. Tamim had contributed 60 of those 81 runs alone before getting dismissed. So, that gives an idea about how the other batsmen fared.
But Shakib and Hossain joined hands in the middle and steadied the ship. As the partnership started growing, things looked ominous for Pakistan. Finally, Pakistan got a much-needed breakthrough as Umar Gul brought an end to Hossain’s patient knock of 28 runs to reduce Bangladesh to 170/5. Shakib followed soon after for a well-made knock if 68 runs. It went haywards after that as they kept losing wickets one after another.
Mahmudullah held the fort at one end and tried to steer them across the line. Pakistan needed two wickets while Bangladesh needed nine runs off the final over to be bowled by Aizaz Cheema. Just one boundary here and there could have made the difference.
But Cheema held his nerves. He didn’t give away a single boundary and conceded only 6 runs off his final over and also claimed the wicket of Abdur Razzaq. Bangladesh fell short only by two runs in the end and Mahmudullah, unbeaten on 17, seemed distraught at the middle not being able to help his team over the line.
There was disappointment among the crowd, there were some teary eyes too, some stood motionless in shock whereas some people wanted to leave the stadium as soon as possible. They were so near yet turned out to be so far in the end. The disappointment was momentary but that was the tournament that probably made them believe to be the team they are today.