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A pulsating low-scoring game nearly went Bangladesh's way, but hopes of a tournament triumph were dashed by Muttiah Muralitharan, who was the unlikely saviour with the bat as Sri Lanka recovered from 6 for 5 to edge a two-wicket win in Mirpur. Bangladesh were in control of the game after Shakib Al Hasan's double-wicket maiden left Sri Lanka needing 39 off 36 balls with two wickets in hand. Murali, though, had other plans, blasting a 16-ball 33, including 32 off two Rubel Hossain overs, to break Bangladeshi hearts. Although the home team lost, the spectators were kept enthralled - a similar tale to that at the MCG today, putting to rest doubts over the viability of the 50-over format in the Twenty20 era.
Two days after what Mohammad Ashraful called Bangladesh's "best victory", medium-pacer Nazmul Hossain's opening burst had put the team on course for a bigger win - it would have been their first tri-nation title. He reduced Sri Lanka to 6 for 5, the lowest score for which a side has lost five wickets in a ODI, before Kumar Sangakkara's battling half-century tilted the game. Shakib's strikes provided a twist but Murali's hitting ensured victory.
Sri Lanka were looking forward to a straightforward victory after Nuwan Kulasekara and the spinners had shot Bangladesh out for 152. The first inkling that things may not go to plan was when the big-hitting Sanath Jayasuriya was run out off the very first ball. Nazmul, recalled in place of Mahbubul Alam, then struck twice in three balls. Mashrafe Mortaza removed Chamara Kapugedera five deliveries later and the crowd went berserk when Thilan Thushara chopped a Nazmul delivery. Sri Lanka had six runs on board and their last specialist batting pair was at the crease. Nazmul's figures read 4-3-1-3.
Sangakkara and Jehan Mubarak started a slow recovery. Mubarak hit Nazmul for a couple of fierce boundaries and Sangakkara had a brace of well-timed fours off Rubel, but otherwise they found runs extremely hard to come by. They had stitched together 42 at about three an over when Mubarak was run out attempting a suicidal single.
Sangakkara, though, showed exemplary patience, going on to make his slowest half-century and did not panic despite the huge task ahead of him. He found an able ally in the recalled Farveez Maharoof, who played a knock which was a curious mixture of caution and aggression - when he was on 17 off 34 balls, he had two sixes and 27 dot-balls. They had taken the score to 114 for 6, and it appeared that Sangakkara would steer them home when Shakib struck. The crowd found its voice again.
They were soon silenced when Sri Lanka's gamble of delaying the batting Powerplay for the last five overs then paid off spectacularly. Murali, with a batting average of 6.01 coming into this game, picked the perfect time to make his highest ODI score, and took apart Rubel, who was playing only his second ODI. Three fours and a six in the 46th over gave Sri Lanka the edge, and Ashraful's decision to persist with Rubel backfired as Murali clouted another four and a six to level the scores with two overs to spare.
An exciting end it was, but it seemed highly unlikely when Bangladesh's batsmen stonewalled their way to a paltry total. Fog had curtailed the final league game of the series to a 31-over-a-game affair, and has blighted much of Sri Lanka's tour, but it mercifully allowed an on-time start today.
An all-too-familiar top-order collapse was induced on a pitch with a tinge of green by medium-pacer Kulasekara, who got the ball to move in both directions. The conditions were helpful initially but Sri Lanka's task was made easier by Bangladesh's batsmen. Tamim Iqbal ill-advised across-the-line swipe resulted in an edge to the keeper, and Shakib's loose waft gave Sangakkara his fourth catch of the innings.
Bangladesh were 54 for 5 in the 19th over, with their key batsmen all dismissed, and in danger of being bowled out well within their quota of overs. Raqibul and Mahmudullah, however, engineered a revival with a measured partnership. Both were keen to get on the front foot and smother the spin but there was little inclination to step on the accelerator. Their partnership raised 44 in nearly 14 overs and after Mahmudullah was bowled by Murali, Raqibul and Naeem Islam continued in the same vein.
At 149 for 6 and with three overs to go, Bangladesh were at least primed for a final onslaught with two set batsmen. However, Ajantha Mendis, who had been wicketless till then, scalped three as the last four went down for one run, giving Bangladesh 152 to defend.
Bangladesh v Sri Lanka, Tri-series final, Mirpur
Match home for the final of the Tri-Nation Tournament between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in Mirpur
Ashraful gutted but highlights improvement
Bangladesh captain Mohammad Ashraful was left ruing what could have been, after he hosts looked to be on course to pick up their first tri-series trophy, only to be pipped at the post by Sri Lanka who held on for a two-wicket victory in the final in Mirpu
Experience in finals won us the game - Sangakkara
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Six for five, yet Bangladesh lost
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