Harmanpreet's all-round show in vain as Bangladesh lift Asia Cup

Bangladesh captain Salma Khatun was too weak to be on her feet by the end of it. The last-ball finish had taken everything out of her team, and here she was, in tears. Calling them tears of joy would be underselling it. It was more, a lot more. Bangladesh won their maiden major title on Sunday (June 10), and they did it by breaking India’s stranglehold on the Asia Cup. This is, in fact, the first Asia Cup win by a country other than India since its inception in 2004.

This result might be a surprise, but it’s no shock like it was earlier in the tournament. Bangladesh had stunned India in the league stages – something which many were tempted to dismiss as a one-off. So they went in and did it again, the hard way. It should have been easier, but they made it hard.

Chasing a modest 113, Bangladesh never really got ahead of the rate at any point. They were there and thereabouts, in control, but not really clasping the game by its throat. And that nearly came back to bite them. With just 13 needed in the last two overs, off-spinner Deepti Sharma bowled a superb penultimate over – giving away just four runs to set the nerves jangling.

What they did have up their sleeves though, was a reasonably well-set Rumana Ahmed – who had starred in their previous win against India. Once she was handed back the strike for the second ball in the final over, she eased the pressure by crashing Harmanpreet Kaur to the extra cover boundary. However, Bangladesh were still not out of jail. This was a big tournament, and they were strangers to winning big tournaments. There was more drama to follow.

Off the fourth ball, Sanjida Islam advanced and deposited a flighted ball straight into the hands of long-on, to leave them needing three runs off two balls. A mis-hit from Rumana Ahmed, leading to her panicky run-out made it two from one, with two batters at the crease who hadn’t faced a single ball.

That’s when Jahanara Alam swiped the final delivery wide enough of deep mid-wicket to allow her to storm back for a second, and allowed the entire Bangladesh dugout to storm out to the centre.

India captain Harmanpreet Kaur did everything she could. She scored exactly half her team’s runs to lift them to what was a fighting total at best. She even bowled the 18th and 20th overs, something which was probably forced on her due to the injury to Shikha Pandey in the second over of the innings. But in the end, her teammates had let her down.

After being put in to bat, India got off on the wrong foot with the run-out of Smriti Mandhana for 7. Quickly after, they were reeling at 32 for four, with some soft batting from the top-order – including the strange dismissal of Anuja Patil for obstructing the field. At this stage, the Bangladesh spinners were on top and Harmanpreet had to rebuild – but the lack of support at the other end left her in the lurch. But through sheer perseverance, she dragged the team along to complete her fifty and provide some respectability.

Bangladesh had a pretty good start, breezing to 33 for no loss in the powerplay. But they were single-handedly pulled back by leg-spinner Poonam Yadav, who sent back both the openers off consecutive deliveries in her very first over. The pressure wasn’t quite the same from the other end, but Poonam was relentless enroute a sensational spell of 4/9 in four overs.

From overs six to 14, Bangladesh had added only 33 more and the pressure had grown appreciably. But Nigar Sultana’s hat-trick of boundaries against Jhulan Goswami brought them back on course again and allowed them to scamper home in a madcap finish.

Bangladesh had a highest score of 27 in their innings, but they had contributions all the way through. Their force as a team trumped India’s two-pronged cast in Harmanpreet and Poonam.

Brief scores: India Women 112/9 in 20 overs (Harmanpreet Kaur 56; Rumana Ahmed 2/22) lost to Bangladesh Women 113/7 in 20 overs (Nigar Sultana 27; Poonam Yadav 4/9) by three wickets

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