Mustafizur Rahman conceded only four runs in the final over as Bangladesh beat Afghanistan by three runs in a thrilling encounter to keep their hopes of another Asia Cup final alive.The Afghans needed eight runs in the final over to win the game, which would have kept them in the tournament, but Mustafiz was perfect, if not at his best.Chasing 250, Afghanistan looked set for a victory as Hashmatullah Shahidi hit his third consecutive fifty.
After the fall of the second wicket on 26, Shahidi first added 63 in the third wicket partnership with Mohammad Shahzad (53) and then 78 with his skipper Asghar Afghan (39) in the fourth wicket.
Even after the fall of these three batsmen, Afghanistan needed just 58 runs with the likes of Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Gulbadan Naib and Samiullah Shenwari still to bat, but Bangladesh bowlers successfully contained them.
Captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza played the most crucial part, removing Asghar and top-scorer Shahidi, who hit 71 off 99 balls, in quick succession.Nabi also played his part with a 28-ball 38 before Shakib tamed him thanks to a Nazmul Hossain Shanto catch in the penultimate over and Mustafiz then ruled the scene.Earlier, fifties from Mahmudullah and Imrul Kayes led Bangladesh to 249 for 7 after Mashrafe had opted to bat.
The duo made 128 in the sixth wicket, a partnership that probably vindicated the decision to send Imrul, an opener, at number six.Mahmudullah was the highest scorer, with a classic 74 off 81 balls, made with three fours and two sixes while Imrul kept it going after the former’s departure.
Imrul was unbeaten at the end of the innings, hitting a four in the last ball that took his individual score to 72 and set the Afghans a target of exactly 250.The batsman hit six fours and his fans will be delighted he justified the management’s decision to fly him to the UAE in the middle of the tournament.
Opener Liton Das missed out on his maiden fifty, but his 41 saved Bangladesh from a disaster after Nazmul Hossain Shanto and Mohammad Mithun had fallen inside six overs.Liton and Mushfiqur Rahim then added 63 in the third wicket before Liton gave a catch trying to go big on Rashid Khan.
Just a ball later, Shakib Al Hasan made a serious error in judgment to get run out while another misunderstanding between Mushfiq and Imrul Kayes saw the former of the two caught off the crease.Mushfiq’s 33-run innings featured two fours and a six while Liton hit three fours in his promising knock.
Aftab Alam bagged three wickets for the Afghans.Mahmudullah was adjudged the Man-of-the-Match for his brilliant knock and the vital wicket of Shahzad.
Afghanistan, who as a team played some exciting cricket in the tournament, will play India in their final match on Tuesday while Bangladesh take on archrivals Pakistan a day later, knowing only a victory will send them to the final.