By Syed Khalid Mahmood
One thing about the final of the otherwise maligned Asia Cup 2012 is certain. That it was not a fixed match, something which could not be said with conviction and certainity about some of the earlier games.
The final between hosts Bangladesh and Pakistan was a routine affair having predictable result with the latter emerging triumphant with the skin of their teeth. It was not unusual to find Pakistan being helped by the fringe members of their team.
Will you believe it that wicketkeeper Sarfaraz Ahmed, who was not being beinf played in the crunch games, turned out to be Pakistan’s topscorer? Equally awesome was the performance of fast bowler Aizaz Cheema, who wasn’t an automatic choice either.
But these are the norms in Pakistan cricket. Those least likely to do it in ordinary circumstances come up with something sensational to turn the tide decisively. They won the final by a couple of runs while defending a modest score of 236.
Bangladesh would have realized that defeating Pakistan, no matter how inexperienced or vulnerable they may look on paper, present the toghest challenge in the world. They may be good enough to overpower the World Cup finalists but they run out of steam in taking on the semifinalists.
It must not be often when Bangladesh control the game but fail to cross the line. But it happened two times and on both occasion Pakistan were their opponents. They had overtaken a much bigger total of 290 against the world champions but they crashed reaching a modest target of 237 in the final.
Whether they will curse that final over from Shahadat Hussain which went for 19 runs with the last pair in or they hold the others responsible for it, Bangladesh had reasons to feel deprived of their maiden title win.
At 170 for three, with Nasir Hossain and Shakib Al Hasan going great guns, Bangladesh appeared on course of a comfortable win. Only 67 more runs were needed in eight overs which looked a straighforward task for them considering the purple patch of their batsmen.
But as we have seen so many times in the past, Pakistan came back from nowhere to derail the home side which, only for the second time in the tournament, faltered from a position of strength.
It was being anticipated that they would not repeat their mistakes after having suffered a loss at the hands of Pakistan in their league fixture. But they proved everyone wrong by literally throwing the match away.
The kind of fortune Misbah-ul-Haq has been enjoying for the past few months it was going to be difficult to tame him but Bangladesh were expected to perform much better than they did in their first-ever appearance in a final.
Irrespective of the conditions in which they had registered thumping victories over India and Sri Lanka the momentum was with Bangladesh and they seemed to be having a balanced outfit to bring home their maiden title. They ran out of luck, more than out of steam, in the final.