There were several performances that hit the high notes in the Asia Cup, which produced thrilling cricket but not without leaving players - barring India's - fatigued because of hectic travel between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Then there were question marks around a few players and team managements that may elicit fresh reviews. ESPNcricinfo examines a number of them
The return of 230 v 230
When was the last time that a nudge to square leg or a push to long-on were part of a batsman's first instinct under pressure? This was a regular feature at the Asia Cup, and it had to do largely with the surfaces across Dubai and Abu Dhabi. For this, the curators need applause. It helped that batsmen had to contend with huge boundaries and the spinners could operate knowing mis-hits would not fly for sixes.
India v Afghanistan delivered a blockbuster 252 v 252 tie, Mustafizur Rahman defended seven off the last over to deny Afghanistan, Shoaib Malik nicked 10 off the final over in a 258 chase to beat Afghanistan in a thriller and Hong Kong came within 26 runs of upsetting India after making 285. That there were no 300+ totals was as much due to the surfaces as it was to the bowling quality of the teams at large. It made for gripping contests. Who said run porn - as social media likes to call it - is fun?
Cricket fitness > yo-yo fitness?
There's an internet joke that goes like this: Mohammad Shahzad's asked of his yo-yo score. '20' he replies to much amusement and surprise, before adding: '10 on first day, 10 on second.' It's apparently even a popular joke within the team, but Afghanistan nearly gave up on Shahzad four years ago because he wasn't the modern-day definition of 'fit.'
That he didn't miss a single game in the tournament, where he opened the batting and kept wickets on back-to-back days despite the exhausting travel and little downtime was a testament to his hunger - no pun intended - and fitness.
Shahzad loves his rich Afghan food and has always maintained he trains and prepares as hard as the others. India certainly had a taste of his firepower during the course of a blistering 124, his fifth ODI century, where he battled 43 degree heat and dehydration to produce a masterclass that elicited rich applause and praise from MS Dhoni, the man he admires.
Shahzad's portly frame is a throwback to the era when players played for the love for the game. He may give you the impression of being an exhibition-match player, who dusts off his jersey every weekend. But he prepares as hard as anyone, takes smart catches, effects quirky leg-side stumpings and has excellent reflexes. He will be key for Afghanistan at the World Cup.
Sri Lanka's M&M factor
He was asked to take over the captaincy by the head coach 10 months ago, but a first-round exit at the Asia Cup then made him a scapegoat. Angelo Mathews is particularly aggrieved at coach Chandika Hathurusingha after the head coach is supposed to have played a part in him being removed as captain and dropped from the ODI squad. The reason: his "poor record in running between the wickets" and "lack of fitness." Rumors about a possible retirement did rounds, but those have been put to the bin now. Mathews is part of the Test squad, signs perhaps he is not completely an outcast yet, but a call on his ODI future should be taken sooner rather than later, with the World Cup now just eight months away.
Another player who was not given good appraisal for his fitness in recent times is Lasith Malinga, who returned to ODI cricket for the first time in more than a year. In his very first outing, all the elements that made him a feared white-ball bowler were back: skid, dip, toe-crushers, late movement and wickets with the new ball, including two in an over. This does not indicate he was any leaner or trimmer than his previous avatar, but he gave hints that a one final hurrah in ODIs was not out of the realms of possibility.
Amir's form and Sarfraz' sleepless nights
He was hot-headed, grumpy and angry on the field most times, his press conferences off it were testy and the confidence of the man who stood atop the podium with the Champions Trophy at The Oval seems to be at its lowest ebb currently. Pakistan won just two games in the tournament, were thumped twice by India and decisively beaten by Bangladesh in the Super Four stage. Sarfraz Ahmed's own showing with the bat was a continuation of the patchy form of the last two years.
There have been talks of managing his workload, Shoaib Akhtar has gone a step ahead called for Babar Azam to take over the Test captaincy. The novelty is fast disappearing, but Pakistan need a rejuvenated Sarfraz for the World Cup, for they don't seem to have any other option currently.
His biggest match-winner at that Cup final more than a year ago is far from a shadow of the menacing bowler who emerged in 2010. Amir's is a confidence issue that stems from a deceleration towards the crease, resulting in dropped pace and lack of intensity according to head coach Mickey Arthur. The team management backed him and played him in the first three games, but ran out of patience eventually. Amir finished the tournament with a grand sum of zero wickets across 18 overs.
Rohit the captain makes all the right moves
His DRS calls were well thought out and not impulsive like Virat Kohli, his 'back players, giving them time and assurance' mantra perhaps stemming from his own experiences of Test cricket, and his patience with his bowlers stood out. He was not always by their side, belting out instructions and allowing them to flourish with their own set plans. He admitted to learning the ropes from observing MS Dhoni and even talking to him about the need to remain calm. The intensity of the job did not seem to have much affected his batting either - he made a century and two half-centuries. Fittingly, he finished the tournament without a loss, most importantly with the title and having established himself as one half of a dominating opening partnership with Shikhar Dhawan that has already reached the Tendulkar-Ganguly, Tendulkar-Sehwag, Gambhir-Sehwag territory of greatness.
Mushfiqur's finishing abilities lends Bangladesh batting dimension
His 144 in the tournament opener contributed more than half of Bangladesh's total - 55.17% to be exact, which is a national record - and it rescued them from not one but two collapses against Sri Lanka. They were effectively 3 for 3 in the second over, but he batted through the innings, with help from Tamim Iqbal, who batted with a broken wrist to ensure they completed their 50 overs. His fitness and training methods have given him wings, the ability to bat for longer periods and improve his agility.
"If you can finish a lap in 50 seconds instead of 60, that extra motivation in my fitness level translates into similar confidence in the skills part. I always try to prepare well ahead of time, and imagine what I may be facing," he had told ESPNcricinfo. During Eid, he was out training in 40 degree heat. His standout was the manner of pacing an ODI innings and leading rescue acts, none more pertinent than in a must-win against Pakistan, where he walked in at 12 for 2, which soon became 12 for 3 and made 99 to convert a precarious situation into a potentially match-winning one.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo