Bangladesh's middle order had turned 2 for 3, 87 for 5 and 12 for 3 into spectacular wins in the Asia Cup. But the day Liton Das produced his maiden ODI century, that too in the tournament final, the rest of the batting was a no-show.
It was Bangladesh's last three years in a nutshell, one aspect of their cricket going horribly wrong before or after others click perfectly into gear. The recipe of this collapse included two hits that didn't cross the midwicket boundary, one batsman playing down the wrong line, and two getting run out.
Such untimely dismissals have lately been associated with Liton, who has been billed for so long as the best Bangladeshi batsman of his generation. Despite scoring heavily in the domestic scene for more than five years, Liton has found many different ways to get out in international cricket. After making 41 against Afghanistan, for instance, he had thrown his wicket away with a needless slog. He has been a source of frustration for long, much like Soumya Sarkar has been since 2016, and all of this has piled the pressure on Bangladesh's senior batsmen.
Before today, Bangladesh's opening stands in the Asia Cup were 1, 15, 15, 16 and 5. Thanks to injury and poor form, three different batsmen had partnered Liton at the top of the order. In the final, the team management made another change in the opening slot, and an unexpected one, with the offspinning allrounder Mehidy Hasan - who had never before batted above No. 6 in 16 ODIs - walking out alongside Liton.
Liton himself hadn't scored a whole heap of runs, but Bangladesh trusted him to open despite having Imrul Kayes and Soumya Sarkar in their line-up. One more failure from Liton could have tipped the decision-makers over the edge. This was his make-or-break innings.
How well he and Mehidy responded. They took everyone, including perhaps themselves, by surprise. Like the honest trier he is, Mehidy committed himself fully to the cause of seeing off India's opening burst. His firmness rubbed off on Liton, who waited until the fourth over before unveiling his first really attacking shot, a wristy flick past square leg. That shot sent him on his way, and he treated Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Yuzvendra Chahal with similar intent on his way to reaching his fifty off 33 balls.
But one ball later came the sort of moment that has given Liton a reputation for throwing his wicket away. But Chahal couldn't hold on to his mistimed slog-sweep running back from deep midwicket, giving Liton a much-needed stroke of luck.
Liton tightened up considerably over the course of his next 50-odd runs. It made sense because he was witnessing a collapse at the other end. It was the first of two collapses that would derail Bangladesh's innings.
Poor decision-making played a large part in 120 for no loss turning into 151 for 5. Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah should have held back their slog-sweeps for much later. Mohammad Mithun was run-out with Liton not responding to his partner's call, instead watching Ravindra Jadeja's athletic effort to stop his blazing drive into the covers.
Liton, who had slowed down considerably after reaching his hundred, added 37 for the sixth wicket with Soumya in a bid to rebuild what was broken but his dismissal, the tightest off stumpings after he was beaten by Kuldeep Yadav's wrong'un, began Bangladesh's second collapse. They lost their last five wickets for 34 runs in 7.4 overs.
The timing of Liton's wicket - in the 41st over - was inopportune for Bangladesh. Perhaps they could have added an extra 20-30 runs to their total - which, in the end, wasn't too far short of match-winning anyway - had he stayed on until the last three or four overs. And they will rue the shot selection and miscommunication that cost them at other key moments. In the end, as has been the case with a lot of Bangladesh's recent ODI cricket, hugely encouraging developments came hand in hand with that perennial question: what if?