Mustafizur Rahman kept his head cool and six deliveries of an excruciating final over exactly where he needed to , conceding just four runs when the plucky Afghans needed 8, to secure a three-run victory in their Super-Four game of the 14th Asia Cup at Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi on Sunday night.
Bowling his 9th over as the team's last, The Fizz, as Mustafiz is lovingly known throughout the cricketing fraternity, worked in all the variety and intelligence that he has picked up in various arenas, including the IPL and BPL. Having been behind the required run rate for much of their innings, the Afghans entered the last 5 overs needing 51 to win with 5 wickets in hand - if there was to be a charge at victory, this was it.
It was the way in which Mohammad Nabi and Samiullah Shenwari commenced the charge that must have rattled Tigers fans. Playing with an aplomb and assuredness belying their almost-novice status. The first four of those overs went 11-9-12-11. There was no reason to believe 8 off the last over would pose any particular difficulty even. But importantly in the previous over, Shakib al Hasan had managed to lure the dangerous Nabi into holing out (38 off 28) to break his breezy partnership with Shenwari.
The Afghans were in need of eight off last six balls for a 250-run chase with all-round nemesis Rashid Khan at the striking end. Rashid managed two off the first ball before brilliantly caught and bowled by Fizz in the next ball.
Samiullah Shenwari got one leg by run while Gulbadin Naib gave a dot in the next before having one leg by run in the 5th ball, keeping their side needing a four off one last ball.
Afghanistan ended the innings on 246 for 7 in 50 overs where number-four batsman Hashmatullah Shahidi [71 off 99b; 5x4] and opener Mohammad Shahzad [53 off 81b; 8x4] played careful innings with their half centuries.
Skipper Asghar Afghan [39 off 47b; 2x4] Mohammad Nabi [38 off 28b; 2x4; 2x6] and Samiullah Shenwari [23* off 19b; 1x4; 1x6] appeared as a threat to Bangladesh's win in the middle-order.
Mustafiz [2/44], Mashrafe Bin Mortaza [2/62], man of the match Mahmudullah [1/17] and Shakib Al Hasan [1/55] shared six wickets to squeeze Afghan innings.
Earlier, Mahmudullah Riyad and Imrul Kayes's doughty 6th wicket partnership of 128 alongside their half centuries turned Bangladesh early disastrous face for a decent 249/7 against Afghanistan.
Mahmudullah hit top-scored 74 off 81 balls, including three boundaries and two sixes, while unbeaten Kayes stayed for 72* off 89 balls with six boundaries for Bangladesh's second most scoring innings and for the first time playing full 50 overs in the tournament till the date.
Starting from a miserable 87/5 in 20.5 overs, Mahmudullah-Kayes carried the team collection to 215/6 in 46.2 overs as both shared a 25.3 overs boosting partnership innings before Mahmudullah was caught by Rashid Khan off Aftab Alam.
Opting to bat, Bangladesh, in the beginning, showed the same spirit of their last two matches, losing two wickets early within the 6th over for an 18-run, and continued down towards before Mahmudullah and Kayes played a comeback innings to cross the decent 200 runs mark.
Mushfiqur Rahim came in and set well to crease in the 3rd wicket with opener Liton Kumar Das to recover early hamper. But opener Liton hurried to play a poor shot off Rashid Khan to end an impressive innings when scoreboard showing 81 for 3 in18.4 overs.
Liton [41 off 43b; 3x4] fell nine runs short for his maiden ODI half-century as he was caught by Ihsanullah, sharing a partnership of 63 off 13.1 overs with Mushfiq.
Shakib Al Hasan came in and played just one ball before the miss communication of understanding with Mushfiq to be run out with a duck on the same score in the last ball of 19th over.
Bangladesh suffered the next blow in the penultimate ball of the 21st over with another run out as Mushfiq failed to way back to reach at his non-striker's end from halfway, coming out following Imrul Kayes's shot off Rashid Khan on 87/5 in 20.5 overs from where Mahmudullah and Kayes started the morale-boosting innings.
With day's score, Mushfiq [33 off 52b; 2x4; 1x6] crossed the 5000-runs mark in ODIs, starting the game from a seven-run behind, after Tamim Iqbal and Shakib among Bangladesh players while become world's 84th cricketer to achieve this feat. Mushfiq aggregated so far 5026 runs from 190 matches with an average of 33.73 runs.
Skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza [10 off 9b; 1x4] was another double-digit scorer for Bangladesh.
Aftab Alam [3/54], Mujeeb Ur Rahman [1/35] and Rashid Khan [1/46] shared five wickets for Afghanistan.
Super-Four stage table
Place Team M W L PT NRR
1 India 2 2 0 4 1.333
2 Pakistan 2 1 1 2 -0.556
3 Bangladesh 2 1 1 2 -0.645
4 Afghanistan2 0 2 0 -0.065