The opening fixture of the Asia Cup 2018 was not too memorable for Sri Lanka, but the Bangladeshis, especially Mushfiqur Rahim, will look back at it with some satisfaction – a 137-run win does that.
Batting first after winning the toss, Bangladesh were put on the back foot straightaway.
Lasith Malinga sent back Liton Das and Shakib Al Hasan for ducks in the very first over, and Suranga Lakmal then struck Tamim Iqbal on the left wrist with a short delivery – Iqbal walked off and it was confirmed later that he had fractured his wrist and was out of the tournament.
— Bangladesh Cricket (@BCBtigers) September 15, 2018
Still, he wasn’t out of the game yet.
Rahim resurrected the innings from No.4 with a superb knock of 144, and it was his 131-run stand with Mohammad Mithun (63) that lifted Bangladesh. Despite that, they were 229/9 when they lost Mustafizur Rahman, only for Iqbal to walk back out.
He could only use one hand, but that was good enough for him to keep Lakmal out for one ball.
Rahim, then on 112, took over after that, playing all the balls of the next two overs to move to 132, with Bangladesh at 249-9, and then swung Thisara Perera away for two sixes in the final over before perishing.
“It was Tamim’s decision whether to come out again. If he doesn’t want to bat, no one can push him. The credit goes to him, he took the decision,” said Mashrafe Mortaza, the Bangladesh captain, later.
Rahim was equally impressed. “Really surprised to see Tamim come to bat, it’s a great gesture. When I saw him, it boosted me to do something for him and for my country,” said the Player of the Match.
There wasn’t much of note in the Sri Lankan reply – Upul Tharanga up front and Perera and Lakmal later on his 20s, but the Bangladesh bowlers were always on top, the pacers and the spinners picking up five wickets apiece to finish off the chase in 35.2 overs.
“It was a pretty bad effort from the whole team. After having them three wickets down, we let them off the hook by dropping catches,” said Angelo Mathews, the Sri Lanka captain.
“We made lot of bad decision while batting. It was a good wicket to bat on. I thought 260 was a chaseable total. We needed a good start when we are chasing 260. We lost too many wickets and no one got going today.”
For Bangladesh, the win – especially the margin of it – makes them favourites to get into the Super Four, which they will look to confirm by beating Afghanistan in their next match.
“It was one of the best one-day innings for Bangladesh. It was under pressure after we lost two early wickets and Tamim retired hurt. The way Mushfiqur batted, especially the finish – it was really good,” gushed Mortaza.
“I would like to mention Mithun as well. He handled the pressure really well. It’s been fantastic. A win always feels good. It was a nice way to start the Asia Cup.”
As for Rahim, whose 144 was the second-highest score in Asia Cup history – joint with Younis Khan – it was celebration time.
“We didn’t get the start we wanted, but credit to Mithun for taking the pressure away from me. And after that I just took my chances and it paid off,” he said.
“It is probably the best I’ve batted because it’s difficult to concentrate with the heat and the running between the wickets as well. We’ve been in great nick, but I haven’t been able to convert my starts into big innings. So that’s paid off.”
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