Bangladesh batsmen may have wilted under the big-match pressure after a three-figure opening partnership. But its bowling unit stretched India to the hilt to make the Asia Cup final a memorable night.
Had it not been for Ravindra Jadeja's experience and Bhuvneshwar Kumar's helping hand, India would have found it difficult to retain the title with a thrilling three-wicket win at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Friday.
Chasing a moderate target of 223, India huffed and puffed before eventually crossing the line off the last ball, thanks to a 45-run partnership between the all-rounder duo, followed by a limping Kedar Jadhav and Kuldeep Yadav scoring the required six runs off the final over.
India's chase was a perfect example of how not to execute an average. It first lost opener Shikhar Dhawan and No. 3 Ambati Rayudu in the first Powerplay. Just when Rohit Sharma and Dinesh Karthik seemed to build a partnership and steer India to safety, Sharma' half-hearted pull resulted in a straightforward catch to Nazmul Hasan at deep square-leg.
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At 83 for three, India hoped Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik would take India much closer to the target. Again, after a 54-run partnership, Karthik missed a straight one from offie Mahmudullah to leave India in a spot of bother at 137 for four.
Jadhav, having played a vital role with the ball early on, started off with a straight six off Mahmudullah but that hardly proved to be the highlight of his short stay. The hamstring injury that kept him out of the game since the IPL opener till last month recurred and after receiving physio Patrick Farhart's treatment thrice, Jadhav was called back to the change room after the 38th over.
To make matters worse, in the earlier over, Mustafizur Rahman had drawn a nick off Dhoni's willow to leave India reeling at 160 for five. When Bhuvneshwar joined Jadeja, India was 56 runs adrift. By the time Jadeja was caught behind, the target was well within sight with 11 runs required off 16 balls. Jadhav returned to the crease and ensured India clinched the trophy late in the night.
India started the day on the backfoot with Liton Das and surprise package Mehidy Hasan Miraz, the lower order batsman, walked out as Das's fourth opening partner in the tournament after being put in to bat. While Miraz held on to an end, Das dominated the new-ball duo of Bhuvneshwar and Jasprit Bumrah so much — hooking and stepping out to clear the in-field with elan — that spin was introduced in the sixth over. But even Yuzvendra Chahal suffered the same fate as Das tonked him for two sixes in the leggie's second over.
Moments after Das crossed his maiden fifty in just 33 balls with a square drive to welcome Ravindra Jadeja in the 12th over, Chahal dropped a skier at mid-wicket off Jadeja. He then made India pay dearly by converting it into his first hundred.
However, he didn't get any support from the other end once Jadhav gave India the breakthrough in the 21st over. The part-timer in his first over got rid of Miraz, who gave catching practice to Ambati Rayudu at point, in the 21st over. Three overs hence, Imrul Kayes missed an incoming delivery by Chahal to be adjudged leg-before wicket.
When Bangladesh lost two more wickets before the 30th over — in-form batsman Mushfiqur Rahim holing out to deep square-leg off Jadhav and Mohammad Mithun being run out by an exceptional piece of fielding by Jadeja, who halted a screamer and then threw at the non-striker's end as instructed by Mahendra Singh Dhoni — it was clear that Bangladesh will be restricted at a below-par score.
In the end, it just proved to be enough.