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Bangladesh's post-match revelry ACC

Bangladesh beat six-time champions for maiden Asia Cup title

WT24 Desk

A maiden Asia Cup final. Nine runs required off the last over. Two wickets go down on the fourth and fifth balls and the match spills onto the final ball, with Bangladesh women needing two to win.

A thriller. A heartbreak for six-time champions India. A perfect ending for Bangladesh, as No. 8 Jahanara Alam dived at the striker’s end to seal a three-wicket victory and give Bangladesh their maiden Asia Cup title. India had limped to 112 for 8 – half those runs coming from captain Harmanpreet Kaur (56 off 42 balls). That they were still able to drag the game to the final over was down to legspinner Poonam Yadav’s career-best 4 for 9.

Deepti Sharma’s throw from midwicket to push the final into a Super Over proved as bereft of vigor as was India’s performance with the bat that saw them post 112 for 8; half of the tally courtesy Harmanpreet’s 42-ball 56. But that the defending champions managed to drag the game onto the final ball was down to legspinner Poonam Yadav’s career-best 4 for 9.

With Bangladesh requiring 23 off 18 and a set Rumana Ahmed batting on 13, Harmanpreet, who hadn’t bowled in India’s last two league matches, brought herself on to bowl the 18th and 20thovers. She drew a top-edge off her first delivery that flew over the wicketkeeper for four. The rest of the over continued to be eventful, featuring two singles and two twos, before ending with a missed run-out opportunity due to an erroneous throw from Smriti Mandhana.

India missed a second run-out opportunity in the 19th over when Deepti, the bowler, decided against throwing the ball at the non-striker Sanjida Islam’s end after collecting a return drive. Islam survived and added 14 vital runs off 13 balls for the sixth wicket with Rumana. Deepti, however, gave away just four runs, leaving India with nine to defend in the final over.

By then, however, all of India’s four frontline spinners had bowled out, their spearhead Jhulan Goswami had leaked 20 in two overs, and their only other fast bowler – Shikha Pandey – left the field with a knee injury – in the second over of the chase – having bowled only four balls.

It was in that context that Harmanpreet, who had memorably bowled the final over in India’s 2016 Asia Cup victory, came on to bowl the 20th. But Rumana, who had single-handedly routed India in their seven-wicket league-stage win, struck an inside-out four off the second ball as Bangladesh shaved off six runs off the first three balls. Islam then slogged Veda Krishnamurthy to long-on as more drama ensued. Deepti and Harmanpreet then combined to have Rumana run out off the penultimate ball of the innings.

With two required off the final ball, Harmanpreet pitched on a fullish-length, and it was met with a slog from Alam towards the deep. With that, India were denied a seventh straight title and Bangladesh had their fifth win in six matches to end a momentous Asia Cup campaign.

But Bangladesh took their first steps towards history much earlier in the game, when they strangled India in the Powerplay, thanks to the left-arm spinner Nahida Akhter, whose three overs cost just six runs.

Salma Khatun, the Bangladesh captain, complemented that effort with some disciplined offspin bowling that kept India’s openers on a leash. The pressure eventually got to the batsmen, when Mandhana’s bid to steal a third run in the fourth over was ended by a direct hit from Akter. An out-of-form Mithali Raj and Deepti then laboured to 9 off 15 balls 3 off nine balls respectively in the Powerplay.

It was enough to inject nerves into India’s innings and led to a wicket in each of the next three overs. Medium-pacer Alam bowled Deepti, offspinner Khadija Tul Kubra removed Raj, while Anuja Patil became the second Indian female player – and the first in T20Is – to be out obstructing the field as she changed her course en route to making her ground at the non-striker’s end.

By then, India had slumped to 32 for 4, before top-scorer Harmanpreet added 30 runs with Veda Krishnamurthy. An ill-judged sweep sent Krishnamurthy back for 11, before legspinner Rumana’s double-strike in the 15th took out wicketkeeper Taniya Bhatia and Shikha Pandey for single-digit scores.

Harmanpreet fought on to notch up her highest score in 19 innings across formats since her unbeaten 171 in the World Cup semi-final last year. Her resistance ended in the last ball of the innings when she found Alam in a bid to clear deep square leg.

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