By Champika Fernando reporting from Dubai
India surged to their seventh Asia Cup title with a last-ball thriller against Bangladesh in the final played in Dubai, UAE yesterday.
The South Asian cricketing heavyweight withstood a late Bangladesh rally and a sublime career-best knock of 121 by Bangladeshi opener Liton Das to win a cliffhanger by three-wickets where both sides fought hard to get their hands on the coveted Cup.
India needed six runs off the last over and survived to finish on the positive side of things as limping Kedar Jadhav hit the winnings run with a flick towards the fine-leg boundary off Mahmudulla Riyad breaking the hearts of Bangladeshis.
India’s chase did not got off the way would have expected as the tournament’s top scorer (with 342 runs) Shikhar Dhawan fell cheaply for 15 as he drove Nazmul Islam straight to Soumya Sarkar at mid-off.
Ambati Rayudu (2) followed soon afterwards when he edged Mashrafe Mortaza to wicket-keeper as India lost their second wicket at 46.
Rohit Sharma went about his business as he has done throughout the tournament but fell two runs short of a yet another half century when he pulled Rubel Hossain (2/26) to Nazmul Islam at deep square-leg.
Rohit was timing the ball perfectly and hit three fours and three sixes before he received the marching orders.
M. S. Dhoni, and Dinesh Karthik (37) then took control of the proceedings briefly with a 54-run fourth-wicket stand before Mahmudulla trapped Karthik leg-before to give them a ray of hope.
He was followed by Dhoni (36) who nicked Mushtafizur Rahman (2/38) to wicket-keeper and with Jadhav who was batting well and made 19 off 20 balls retired hurt, Bangladesh were back in the game.
But Ravindra Jadeja(23) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar(21) took India in sight of victory with a 56-run partnership but Rubel Hossain struck once again removing Jadeja.
Jadeja had got a faint nick as the ball passed through but the Umpire gave not out prompting Bangladesh to review it successfully. Jadhav returned to bat despite the injury and finished off things with a composed innings.
After they were put into bat, the injury-hit Bangladesh got off to a flying start as their makeshift opening combination of Das and Mehidy Hasan Miraz shared a blistering stand of 120 by the 21st over.
But a sensational batting collapse thereafter put the Men in Green in deep trouble in their bid to win a maiden Asia Cup title.
When the imposing partnership was finally broken, the rest of the batting collapsed like nine pins; all 10 wickets were lost for the addition of 102 runs.
Despite wickets falling at one end, Das held his nerve to score his first ever international hundred.
Das found the fence regularly in his 117 ball innings, hitting 12 boundaries and two sixes as he single-handedly helped Bangladesh with something to bowl at.
This was, however, long after Yuzvendra Chahal offered a lifeline to him at mid-wicket when the Bangladesh score was on 70.
Jadeja created an opportunity soon after Das hit his maiden half century with a boundary off his first ball of the innings but Chahal who was running backward at mid-wicket could not complete the catch.
Bangladesh played a masterstroke by sending Mirza (32) as opener and while the spinner could not make a big impact with the bat, he offered a good support for his aggressive partner who played beautifully for his maiden century.
Das was very strong on the leg side and treated India’s famed seam combination of Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar harshly, hitting a flurry of boundaries.
But things changed when the partnership was finally broken by Jadhav when Mirza attempted to hit over cover for a boundary.
Ambati Rayudu made no mistake with the catch as India got the much awaited breakthrough. India then got control of the proceeding bowling at tight line and lengths, leaving little room for the batsmen to free their arms.
This was proved a costly mistake as Das went on to add further 69 runs to Bangladesh’s total.
Das was finally stumped when he misread a googly from Kuldeep Yadev in the 41st over as Bangladesh lost their sixth wicket for 188 runs.
Bangladesh had expected much from the in-form batsman Mushfiqur Rahim but he could last just nine balls as he perished while attempting pull Jadhav for five.
Soumya Sarkar helped the total with a watchful 33 as Bangladesh settled for what promised to be a score of over 280 to 222 all out in the 49th over.
Yadav was the pick of the bowlers, claiming three for 45 while Jadhav finished with figures of two for 41 and were well complimented by an electrifying effort on the field.