Bangladesh stun India to win maiden Asia Cup title
On which end should the throw have been delivered, wondered dazed and confused viewers, citing their own polarized versions of the nail-biting final-ball thriller that saw Indians on the field possibly as dejected as those watching in derision the proceedings.
But it didn’t matter, it wasn’t going to change anything and if you were a supporter of the women decked in blazing greens, ably complementing the green pastures of a very Malay field, you were on the edge of your seat and had even possibly fallen on the ground.
In the immediate aftermath of the final ball by Harmanpreet Kaur, the inequalities about India’s inability to keep calm on the eventual delivery was perhaps futile in front of what could only be described as an ingenious display of cricket by Bangladesh, who clinched 2 runs on the last ball to claim their maiden Asia Cup triumph.
How often have you seen successful running between the wickets auguring for a titanic, heart-stopping triumph over and above mega sixes into the stands? But given the narrative of Bangladesh’s rise against the prominence of India, few things, if it could be shared, can only be managed by the underdog.
In extending their margin of wins against India in the just-concluded epic run of wins to 2 to none by their vanquished, it’s safe to assume Bangladesh have diminished indifferences that’s often latched on their sport. Theirs is a brand of cricket that hasn’t usually won them fans, even as its, on its day, unconquerable, as seen even earlier during Asia Cup 2018.
A loss by 5 runs or 3 wickets in a T20 contest can be sufficiently described as a comprehensive victory. But when a win is registered on the final ball, the chasing team walking over the victory line by 3 wickets, you know the contest has been nothing shy of a live-wire.
In a contest that for the sheer paucity of runs be described by a spinner versus spinner saga, interestingly saw all of Bangladesh’s 7 wickets falling to India’s ace spinner and arguably, on current form and consistency, the best in Poonam Yadav.
Ably picking her best-ever T20 figures, 4 for 9, a very envy-inducing miserly brilliant exposition of leg-break bowling helped India to claw back in a contest where for the lack of a better word, Harmanpreet’s side put a second-rate batting performance.
It wasn’t going to be any easy when India asked of its successful sub-continental beaters merely 113. And then to have had captain Harmanpreet, nearly deliver a successful all-round performance akin to a famous name in the opposite camp- Rumana Ahmed- things became tighter for Bangladesh with the hopes fading when Ahmed ran herself out in an apparent brain-fade moment, expecting to invent another single from the non-striker’s end when there clearly wasn’t.
But before all of that, before the consecutive wickets scalped sharply by Poonam of Sultana’s and Hoque’s there were annoying batting struggles for Team India.
In being put to bat first, perhaps the identical decision that Harmanpreet would’ve opted for had the toss at least gone her way, India’s batting struggles on a tailor-made spin-friendly track were apparent when a very Test figure like 12 were collected from 3 overs.
One of those days when strokes emerged from the meat of Mandhana’s blade only to find fielders successively inside the circle to up the ante of pressure, off-break specialist Khadija scalped the gritty left-hander’s companion Mithali for 7, after which she’d remove Harmanpreet- the only glitter amid Indian batswomen’s gloom- at the closing stages. Meanwhile, Mandhana, minus the familiar belligerence would run herself out indicating that India’s wasn’t the best running between the wickets on the much-important final.
But the narrative before that had been completely changed by the likes of Alam and Ahmed, the familiar spin duo responsible for destructing India’s middle and lower-order that just didn’t seem cut out to repair a broken vehicle whose only hopes at reconstructive engineering were left to Kaur, 7 boundaries in her 42-ball-56.
As wickets feel quicker than an amateur on an ice-skating rink, India’s toiling scorecard going from 3-28 to 4-32, to very quickly, 5-62, after it seemed only Krishnamurthy was ready to battle, surprises like Patil being dismissed for ‘obstructing the field’ kept stealing the light away from Harmanpreet’s mature handling of spinners.
Then, when Bangladesh, not even requiring to chase 6 an over, a bare minimum standard you’d expect from a T20 contest to sound interesting, began, they seemed unhurt. With openers- Sultana and Rahman- collecting 35 at nearly 5 an over, it didn’t seem trouble would strike before Poonam Yadav unleashed herself on an inexperienced attack that made handling spin appear like confronting a reptilian mammoth.
How else would be to describe the mediocre batting suddenly finding itself vulnerable to leg spin with the right armer conceding an extraordinarily low 9 of 4 overs in a final?
Lop-sided fielding by India and the apparent confusion of seeing a veteran of the sport, and possibly not the fastest athlete in Goswami at the deep backward point during death overs- made for some perplexing viewing.
While Harmanpreet crawled in making it tough for her opponents to score, the game turned on its head in the 15th over, when right at the asking rate of over 7, Bangladesh struck 16 off JhulanGoswami, bowling full and right short of pitch yorker length, in a failing attempt to disturb the wickets.
From thereon, a battle of nerves ensued with 1s and 2s appearing frequently and ultimately yielding a rare moment of reprieve for a side that should be credited for keeping its calm against a true cricketing grizzly that is the Indian Women’s team. Fittingly, for Bangladesh, it’s captain, Salma Khatun- a live wire in the final contest- was at the crease.