Bangladesh v Pakistan, Asia Cup final, Mirpur March 22, 2012

Bangladesh just would not give up

They fell two runs short in the final, but the Asia Cup 2012 will be remembered for the fight and self-belief the hosts showed to confound pre-tournament expectations and challenge all their higher-rated opponents

Barely half an hour after the Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim and several of his team-mates were crying on the field, the Shere Bangla stadium was lit up by a dazzling fireworks display. That was meant to be a mark of congratulation for Pakistan, winners of the Asia Cup, but it may well have been feting the battling performance of the home side, who confounded pre-tournament expectations by pushing the opposition hard in every match, eventually falling short on the final delivery of the competition.

For one day, normal life in Bangladesh was paralysed as the whole nation tuned in to watch the biggest day in their cricket so far. It was so massive an occasion that even those two bitter rivals, prime minister Sheikh Hasina and opposition leader Khaleda Zia, were in the same stand cheering the national team on.

A tournament final itself brings with it loads of pressure; chasing in the final even more. That is for teams used to playing the crunch matches. For Bangladesh the stresses are unique. An Asia Cup success or failure was not going to completely change the mood of the other three teams' supporters, but in Bangladesh the highs of the past week have been celebrated with the fervour usually reserved for World Cups or other such blue-riband events.

Perhaps the biggest difference in this Bangladesh team compared to previous ones was in the mindset and self-belief. Right from the first match of the tournament, when their chase seemed to have been derailed by Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal, they never gave up. With 23 needed off the final three overs and the last pair at the crease, Shakib Al Hasan whipped the first ball of the 48th towards deep square leg. It only resulted in a single as Shakib could not get it wide enough of the fielder, and he let out a scream of frustration at having exposed No. 11 Shahadat Hossain to the strike so early in the over.

Whatever the situation, they were not going to settle for anything less than a win. When Bangladesh played Pakistan in the previous Asia Cup two years ago, their bowlers took a pasting and Shahid Afridi's manic century led to a humungous total. Bangladesh did not even bother trying to chase down the target, opting instead for some batting practice, and ended up 139 short. This side is not thinking like that.

When the spin of Afridi choked them in the middle overs of their chase in the final, sending the required-rate towards seven, Shakib was at hand to bring Bangladesh back. The loss of Shakib and Mushfiqur Rahim, two batsmen who have shown the talent and temperament to bat at the death, in ten deliveries would normally have meant the end of the contest. A few fans thought as much and started heading for the exit.

They were proved wrong, and the stunned silence was elbowed out by the usual clamour of the home fans as Umar Gul was taken for three boundaries in the next over. They were fearless boundaries as well: Mahmudullah charging out against the quick bowler and crashing him through cover before Mashrafe Mortaza enterprisingly helped a short ball from outside off past the fine-leg boundary.

If they were feeling the heat, Bangladesh were not showing it. Even in the final over, Pakistan seemed to be the ones losing their head, with an amateurish bit of fielding followed by overthrows allowing three runs when Bangladesh could have been kept to one. It did not pan out for the home side, though it was not due to a lack of effort.

"A boundary off the last ball is what we lacked," Bangladesh coach Stuart Law said at a press conference which began with him and Mushfiqur getting a standing ovation. "We didn't lack anything; we had penetration with ball, the batters also did well. We could have rotated the strike a bit better during the middle part. We played the best game of cricket we possibly could this evening."

After matches in this Asia Cup, you would usually have to wade through a festive street of revellers. After the final, though, the streets wore an emptier everyday look, as the fans had long trudged off, the dream of a title dashed.

They needn't be too disappointed though. After a painful decade of being whipping boys, the stomach Bangladesh have shown for a fight and the self-belief they have gained from the Asia Cup should spur the team on to bigger things. "We played a very consistent and professional brand of cricket. It's only that we didn't get a historic victory," Law said. "I can hold my head up high for the way the boys played their socks off in the last three games. [They] have proved we have the talent to beat any team in the world."

Edited by Dustin Silgardo

Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ram on March 25, 2012, 0:53 GMT

    @streetblader, don't be so bitter. enjoy cricket. you call BD performance in Asia cup fluke? you must have not seen the first BD vs Pakistan game. Pakistan nearly lost that match too. Hey, I got an idea, why don't you look at some recent performance of India?

  • Khasrul on March 24, 2012, 23:37 GMT

    Asia cup was a great success. Sri Lanka , team players, in their highs and lows, give their best. Fierce competitor, at the same time most well mannered and friendly (players and fans alike) If Indian fans are proud, they have a right to be. They have consistently produced gem of players who dominated world cricket consistently. Beaten and humiliated by Bangladesh, Some compare Virat as a mythological fighter with Trishul in hand, clobbering 183 and winning against Pakistan. No, he is a man with a humble smile but the best ODI player. Pakistan produced great players, and each of their hearts was killed by their cricket board, or over zealous fans, or committed cricket suicide by themselves. In Misbah, they have a guy, who can chaperone their spirits to play cricket, as they played with Imran. . And Bangladesh, we are proud of our team not because we lost the cup at the end, not because we defeated India, Sri Lanka, but because we fought, and fought, and fought…Keep fighting Bangladesh,

  • roket on March 24, 2012, 19:30 GMT

    @streetblader: Once in a Donkey's year? How does it apply to BD? We have been playing international cricket regularly only for the past 10 years! India is playing since mid 1800s, where visiting teams came to India! Only since early 2000 has India been taken seriously by the other teams. India's win in 1981 was a fluke, as they were beaten by Sri Lanka (the newcomer) only 4 years before that in a WC match. India was unable to do much, even play in a final of the WC for another 30 years proves that India's win in 1981 was a fluke. While we BD fans have passion, we also know our cricket history, so please learn yours before you you claim donkey's years for BD success, we have only been playing for 1/15th of the time India has been playing cricket.

  • roket on March 24, 2012, 19:21 GMT

    @streetblader: A bigger LOL to your comments. Your statement is not a "fact", as you made an assumption that IF this was a multi game tournament, BD WOULD have been at the bottom of the table. It is the same way all the Whining Indian fans are making baseless arguments like "IF SRT did not play a slow innings, IND would have beat BD". Are all Indian fans soothsayers capable of seeing the future? How do you know "with no doubt what so ever"? Based on what? What we do know as a fact that INDIA has lost multi game test series (every game by huge margins) against England and Australia recently. That is a FACT, there is NO DOUBT WHATSOEVER. Based on India's recent record, I can say, with no DOUBT WHATSOEVER, that if the Asia cup was played in multi game format, India would have been at the bottom of the points table. If you dont agree with my prediction, that is based on FACTS from recent past (last 6 months), than how do you expect the world to agree to your baseless prediction?

  • Hasib on March 24, 2012, 17:44 GMT

    Well done Bangladesh!! Just replace Shahadat with Rubel or Shafiul in the future matches and replace Nazimuddin (13 batting average?) with some quality player like Nafees. I really don't understand why Bangladesh fails to see the value of Nafees. Otherwise, BD finally got a good balanced team. 3 fast bowlers, plenty of allrounders, quality spinners, good fielders, and with Nafees in the team, 3 left handed and 4 right handed batsmen at the top.. Good combination.

  • Chandan on March 24, 2012, 15:12 GMT

    LOL all this excitement from bangladesh fans is commendable... nice to see them have some passion for the game.. but the fact still remains that they manage to do this once in a donkey's years... had the Asia cup been a match where the teams played at least 2 matches against each other, bangladesh would, with no doubts whatsoever, have been at the bottom of the table... bangladesh have surely made some sort of a record for most fluke wins by a team ever?

  • Alam on March 24, 2012, 7:05 GMT

    For Pakistan,,, Keep running Over UR Opponents TO Acheive Big Wins,, For Bangla Desh,, Kepp PErforming Well Events Lyk BPL Will Definately Change The Mind Set To Win Nail Bitting Games Lyl u Lost Couple Ov Days Ago,,,

  • Ashraful on March 24, 2012, 5:05 GMT

    Great per4mance by BD cricket team............... although u haven't won the title but still u r the champs in our heart...........

  • bangladesh_ on March 24, 2012, 4:02 GMT

    @streetbladder: brother, same logic can be applied to your country, you won the world cup, but are getting hammered wherever you go, so one may say you won the cup just because you had a few good games in subcontinental conditions and there were no other super power (like Australia in the past) to win the world cup... would it be fair? no! you are still the world champions!! because you won it!!!

  • Adnan on March 24, 2012, 3:21 GMT

    Bravo to BD , that might be new beginning of Bangladesh cricket team. Asia Cup is just a tournament. Let us see who is real Asian Champion, that analysis covers all head to head matches rather than selective period / tournaments. Pakistan vs India , the score line is 69-48 in favour of Pakistan. Pakistan vs Sri Lanka again 76-47 in Pakistan's favour. Pakistan vs Bangladesh it is 30-1 in Pakistan's favour. Any taker??

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