A last ball thriller to decide the fate of the championship – much to the surprise of many, the finale of the 2018 Asia Cup couldn't have been any closer than this. Coming into this decider against India, not many would have expected such resistance from Mashrafe Mortaza-led depleted Bangladesh team. But, they not only just put up a fight, the Tigers came tantalizing close to win their maiden Asian crown. However, in the end India's experience and perseverance helped them to seize the key moments in the match, which eventually turned out to be the deciding factor.
Let's dig deep here and look back at those crucial phases of the match where India had outclassed Bangladesh to clinch the title for the seventh time.
Indian spinners triggering a middle-order collapse
Having been asked to bat first on a fresh pitch in a tournament final was a blessing in disguise for Bangladesh. The Tigers had an exceptional beginning through Liton Das and Mehidy Hasan, reaching 120 for no loss in the 21st over. For Indian fans it was a deja vu of last year's Champion's Trophy final. From there a sensible approach would have taken Bangladesh to the 280-300 run mark.
However, they failed to seize the opportunity.
Indian skipper Rohit Sharma quite aptly used his spin-trio to lure Bangladeshi batsmen into playing false shots. It was India's man with the golden arm, Kedar Jadhav, who with his part-time off-spin, dislodged the opening partnership that opened the floodgates, post which Kuldeep Yadav and Co. took over. Interestingly, before the initial breakthrough, when Bangladesh were 116 for no loss in 20 overs, India's three frontline spinners had combined figures of 12-0-70-0. But following the introduction of Jadhav, Bangladesh lost 62 for 5 to the tweakers in the next 20 overs.
Showcasing how poorly the Bangladesh middle-order batted against the spinners in the middle-overs. Especially, Kuldeep (45 for 3 in his 10 overs) and Jadhav (2 for 41 in 9 overs) hardly allowed Bangladesh batsmen to gain any sort of momentum. Senior pros like Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah played senseless shots to get out and bringing India back in the game.
Eventually, following the massive 120-run opening stand, Bangladesh lost all their wickets for just 102 runs folding out for 222.
At the halfway stage, the score seemed at least 40 runs short of what would have been a competitive total on that pitch.
Poor day at the office for Bangla spinners
Whilst, in the second half of the game, the Bangladeshi spinners had a completely contrasting outing compared to their Indian counterparts.
Coming into this match Bangladesh played an extra spinner in left-armer Nazmul Islam, who took the wicket of Shikhar Dhawan to peg India back early during their run-chase. However, in the latter half of the innings, when Mortaza wanted some of stability in the proceedings, his spinners failed to respond to their captain's call.
In the middle-overs the likes of Mehidy, Mahmudullah and Islam couldn't stop the run flow. When the fast bowlers were creating pressure with their tight line and lengths, the spinners leaked runs. In the 20 overs that the trio bowled, India got 116 runs, losing only two wickets. This lack of impact by the spinners forced Mortaza to overbowl the likes of Mustafizur Rahman, Rubel Hossian and himself in the middle-overs in search of wickets.
The Jadeja-Bhuvneshwar stand
Unable to continue due to injured hamstring, Jadhav went back to the pavilion, retired hurt with India needing 56 runs off 72 balls. Bhuvneshwar Kumar came out to join Ravindra Jadeja at the crease. One gets a feeling that was Bangladesh's best chance to seal the game in their favour.
Mortaza did try his level best to get a breakthrough at that stage. He kept rotating his bowlers, set up attacking fields to stop the singles and went for full-fledged attack. A wicket at that juncture would have made things difficult for the Indian lower-order. However, both Jadeja and Bhuvneshwar batted sensibly and kept their composure under pressure. The 45 runs the duo added at that phase played a crucial role behind India narrowly crossing the line on Friday night.
The dilemma surrounding last over
There was a twist in tale in the match. Bangladesh needed to defend six in the final over and India had two wickets in hand. With an injured Jadhav alongside Kuldeep at the crease, Mashrafe initially went for Soumya Sarkar's medium pace. However, a last-minute change of plan saw Mahmudullah taking the ball.
Here perhaps Bangladesh missed a trick. Mashrafe should have gone for Sarkar considering that Kuldeep was on strike at the start of the over. For a No. 10 batsman, it is always a difficult task to handle a medium pacer compared to a part-time off-spinner. Though to his credit, Mahmudullah did try his level best and kept his team in the match till the last ball. But one needs to understand that for a spinner, defending run-a-ball in the last over is always a stiff ask.