MIRPUR: Pakistan clinched their second Asia Cup as they registered a thrilling two-run win over a heart-broken Bangladesh in Mirpur on Thursday. Sent in to bat, Pakistan compiled 236 despite none of their batsmen reaching the 50-run mark, and relied on their trusty bowling arsenal to prevent the resurgent home team from scoring the nine runs needed for what would have been a memorable last-over victory.
Bowling the last over, Aizaz Cheema conceded just six as Mahmudullah and Abdur Razzak failed to get the hosts over the line. Bangladesh, earlier, had benefited from a near perfect start to their chase. Their opening pair of Nazimuddin (16) and Tamim Iqbal (60) added 68 in 16.4 overs, before a succession of wickets left them reeling on 81 for three in the 24th over.
In came Shakib Al Hasan, and stroked his way to a third half-century in four matches, as he added 89 in 19.2 overs with Nasir Hossain (28). Tragedy struck when both set batsmen exited within seven balls of each other, leaving Bangladesh 57 to get in 38 balls, five wickets in hand.
The asking rate kept creeping up and 39 were required in four overs when Mashrafe Mortaza got stuck into Umar Gul, in the 47th over – striking two boundaries on the way to taking 14. Gul got the stick again in the 49th over – when the host needed 19 in two overs – as he leaked 10 runs, leaving Bangladesh nine to get from the last over – an ask that proved three runs too far.
To begin with, Pakistan were sent in to bat and started on the wrong foot. They found themselves four down for 70 in the 22nd over – with reliable opener Mohammad Hafeez, skipper Misbah ul Haq and Younis Khan all back in the pavilion.
Hammad Azam (30) and Umar Akmal (30) steadied the boat somewhat by compiling 59 in 12.1 overs for the fifth wicket, before both batsmen departed within four runs of each other. In came Shahid Afridi, and for a moment the erratic Pathan promised to deliver the blitzkrieg that is ever-expected of him.
Afridi struck a towering six – a murderous blow over long-off against Mashrafe Mortaza – and four boundaries in his 22-ball 32, adding 45 in just 40 balls with ‘keeper Sarfraz Ahmed (46, 52b, 4x4). Afridi, however, was out in characteristic fashion – holing out to a Shakib full toss that was there for the creaming - and left Pakistan tottering on 178 for seven in the 42nd over.
Amid the regular fall of wickets, Sarfraz marched on unabated and allianced for 30 runs in four overs with Aizaz Cheema, for the last wicket. In the last over of the innings (bowled by Shahadat Hossain) the two massacred 19 – runs which were to prove ultimately crucial.
Shakib was declared man of the series while Afridi was the man of the match for his cameo and restrictive bowling.