Bangladesh v Sri Lanka, Tri-series final, Mirpur January 16, 2009

Six for five, yet Bangladesh lost

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Briefly, Bangladesh threatened to pull off a remarkable victory © PA Photos
 
Before Sri Lanka's chase began, few would have placed even a taka on Bangladesh defending 152. At the end of eight dramatic overs, unprecedented in Bangladesh cricket history, the score read 6 for 5 and the improbable seemed likely.

As it happened, a freakish blitz from a tailender to settle the issue but, even in defeat, Bangladesh were not disgraced. Their level of commitment and body language and their overall performance in the field were remarkable but those eight overs showed just what Bangladesh are fully capable of as a unit.

Their first task was to attack an already brittle Sri Lankan top order. The pitch didn't have as much grass as it had for some of the earlier games in the tournament but that didn't necessarily make batting any easier. It was a surface that demanded the ball be pitched up to induce mistakes and the opening bowlers, Mashrafe Mortaza and Nazmul Hossain, stuck to the plan, backed by attacking fields and agile fielding.

It took just one ball to show that Bangladesh meant business. Upul Tharanga tapped the first ball of the chase to extra cover and the batsmen set off, only to hesitate and turn back on seeing Shakib Al Hasan slide across to his left and stop the ball. He threw while still on his knees and hit the target with Sanath Jayasuriya yards short.

That start gave Bangladesh some belief and they followed it up with two maidens, pinning Sri Lanka down with a stifling, accurate off stump line. Nazmul's inclusion ahead of the struggling Mahbubul Alam was expected and, running in hard and cranking up his pace, he was the ideal foil for the senior Mortaza as they combined to plug both ends.

Tharanga looked to break free but at no point in his stint did he look convincing and when he did make contact with the ball he found the fielders. His dismissal was perhaps inevitable - he lashed out at a full and wide delivery from Nazmul but failed to use his feet and was caught behind.

The score, then 4 for 2, became 4 for 3 two balls later when a circumspect Mahela Jayawardene, on a horrible run of form, was caught in two minds by a delivery that shaped away from him; the ball traveled off the face of the bat to the wicketkeeper. It seemed Bangladesh worked to a plan for Jayawardene - he'd been trapped in similar fashion by Zimbabwe's Ed Rainsford a few days earlier - his last eight innings now read as 15,4,0,0,0,28,0.

There was more of a contest between Nazmul, still sticking to his offside line, and Kumar Sangakkara, who had the patience demanded by the situation. Nazmul's strategy was simple - pitch it up and get it to slant across - and, though Sangakkara didn't fall for the bait, the bowler deserves credit for maintaining the pressure. Sangakkara shuffled across his stumps at times and withdrew his bat on several occasions but, with each passing dot ball, the belief in the Bangladesh camp increased - as did the decibel levels in the packed stands.

All the while the fielders kept up the pressure, charging in and attacking the circle - and, crucially, showing positive body language. Chamara Kapugedera fell before he could get his eye in, poking at a delivery from Mortaza that bounced more than usual and angled across him to Junaid Siddique at second slip. 4 down for 5. Mortaza, who charged towards the slips cordon in delight, didn't let the intensity drop in his eight-over first spell; indeed, it seemed the two opening bowlers were inspiring each other to a higher level of performance.

That wicket brought in Thilan Thushara, promoted to a pinch hitter's role. He faced nine balls but failed to clear the infield were met with no success. When he inside edged Nazmul on to the stumps, the score read an astonishing 6 for 5, the lowest score at which a team had lost five wickets. It beat the 12 for 5 by Pakistan against West Indies in Brisbane, 16 years ago.

At that point Bangladesh had the match, and their first-ever one-day series title, in their grasp but Sri Lanka had the depth and the match experience - and Sangakkara, whose 59 was the highest score of the match. Bangladesh didn't let the intensity drop and Ashraful kept changing his bowlers to deny the batsmen a chance to settle into any rhythm, the discipline reflected in the fact that the innings run rate crossed three only in the 46th over, the start of the batting Powerplay.

Slowly, but surely, Sri Lanka swung the match back their way and waited for Bangladesh to make the mistakes. Ashraful's gamble of introducing the rookie Rubel Hossain probably cost Bangladesh the match; he failed to slip in the yorkers and allowed Muttiah Muralitharan a free rein. The 46th over, when Murali hit him for 20 runs - including three fours and a six - effectively ended the match.

Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo