A spirited Bangladesh continued their giant killing act with a stunning five-wicket win over Pakistan in a low-scoring thriller to set up a title clash against India in the Asia Cup T20 cricket tournament in Mirpur.
Needing 130 to win, Bangladesh won the match in 19.1 overs with Mahmudullah Riyadh (22 not out off 15 balls) and Mashrafe Mortaza (12 off 7 balls) adding 27 in only 1.5 overs to help the hosts overwhelm the target with five balls to spare.
It was a tense final few overs as Bangladesh weathered the storm off Mohammed Amir (2/26 in 4 overs) after they looked in trouble at 104 for 5 in 17.2 overs.
In came skipper Mortaza with Amir on rampage in the 18th over. The skipper hit two back-to-back boundaries off Amir before playing two dots.
With Bangladesh requiring 18 off the last two overs, Mohammed Sami had Mortaza caught at long-off but to the bowler’s horror, it was called a no-ball for overstepping as the equation came down from 15 off nine balls to 12 from nine balls with the skipper and Mahmudullah running a couple.
With nine required off seven balls, Mahmudullah bisected a fuller delivery from Sami behind point boundary and to the joy of the crowd it was adjudged a no-ball.
At the start of the final over, Bangladesh required three runs which was a mere formality. It was Mahmudullah, who thrashed Anwar Ali over deep mid-wicket boundary to finish off the chase in style.
Chasing the fighting total, Tamim Iqbal (8) flicked Amir behind square for a six but was trapped leg before in the very next over.
Left-handed opener Soumya Sarkar, who has had a quiet Asia Cup till now, hit a couple of boundaries to get into the groove as the in-form Sabbir Rahman walked in at the other end.
Sabbir (14) did not have a great day even though 33 crucial runs were added for the second wicket with Sarkar.
Finally, Sabbir was bowled as he jumped out to a flight delivery from Afridi that went in with the angle.
The dismissal failed to put brakes on Sarkar as he continued to play his natural strokes. The shot of the match was a six over deep mid-wicket off seamer Anwar Ali, which was executed with effortless ease. The final delivery of the 10th over saw Sarkar play another pull shot for boundary.
Fifteen runs came off the Anwar over as Pakistan’s chances of making it to the final looked bleaked from here on.
But Mohammed Amir’s third and fourth overs were last throw of dice by Afridi. In the 14th over, Amir bowled a perfect yorker to uproot Sarkar’s leg stump.
Sarkar scored a run-a-ball 48 with five fours and a six. Bangladesh were 83 for three and soon became 88 for 4 when former skipper Mushfiqur Rahim (12) played an atrocious reverse sweep to be adjudged leg before off Shoaib Malik.
Shakib al Hasan (8) tried a lap-shot in Amir’s final over only to be bowled.
Earlier, Sarfraz Ahmed’s composed unbeaten knock of 58 saw Pakistan get to a par score of 129 for seven in 20 overs after Shahid Afridi elected to bat.
Al Amin Hossain (3/25) was the most successful bowler while left-arm spinner Arafat Sunny chipped in with two wickets.
It was yet another disastrous start by the Pakistanis, who were reduced to 28 for four but Sarfraz along with Shoaib Malik (41) repaired the damage.
Sarfraz hit five fours and two sixes in his 42-ball knock, while Malik had five boundaries and a six during his 30 balls innings.
The duo added 70 in 8.2 overs which helped them recover Pakistan after the early dismissals of Khurram Manzoor (1), Sharjeel Khan (10), Mohammed Hafeez (1) and Umar Akmal (4).
Hafeez, though, was little unlucky as it was a poor decision with the delivery from Mortaza hitting the batsman in the box region and looked like travelling over the stumps.
Akmal’s rush of blood cost him dear as he tried a big shot only to be caught at the deep point by Shakib Al Hasan.
Sharjeel tried to sweep a straight deliver from left-arm spinner Arafat Sunny while the real beauty was the one that got Khurram out.
Al-Amin hit the deck hard on good length and the ball grew big on Khurram who nibbled at it to give Mushfiqur Rahim an easy catch behind the stumps.
However, Malik, who has been in decent form in the tournament, joined hands with Sarfraz and they batted sensibly.
The first 10 overs saw Pakistan tottering at 30 for four and in the next 10, they got another 99 runs losing only three wickets.