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Revisiting five Asia Cup classics

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Asia_Cup_Classic_TrophyThe 13th edition of the ODI Asia Cup - the most relevant continental tournament at a time when bilateral series are holding sway - kicks off in the United Arab Emirates on September 15. India and Sri Lanka have won the coveted title five times each (besides which India have won the only T20 Asia Cup, in 2015-16), while Pakistan have tasted victory twice. As we anticipate a keenly-fought competition, here is a look back at five thrilling Asia Cup duels from the years gone by.   

 


India v Sri Lanka, Super Four Stage, Colombo, 2004

Following a sluggish performance against Pakistan that led to a 59-run defeat, India faced a must-win situation in their last Super Four match at the R. Premadasa Stadium against the hosts, who were hitherto unbeaten and had already qualified for the final. Virender Sehwag (81) and captain Sourav Ganguly (79) provided a strong platform to the innings with a composed second-wicket stand worth 134, before Yuvraj Singh hit a breezy 50 to push the eventual total to 271/6.


The Indian bowlers struck regularly, and at 134/5, Sri Lanka seemed to be sinking. However, the marauding Sanath Jayasuriya was in his element. The left-handed opener shared in a sixth-wicket stand of 103 with Tillekaratne Dilshan to give India the jitters. With 18 needed off 18 balls, the part-time off-spin of Sehwag (3/37) consumed Jayasuriya (130), much to India’s relief. Sri Lanka needed 11 from the last over, but Zaheer Khan held his nerve and restricted them to 267/9.


India v Pakistan, League Stage, Dambulla, 2010

This league-stage clash of the arch-rivals had its fair share of turbulent incidents, including an ugly verbal exchange involving Gautam Gambhir and Kamran Akmal during the Indian innings. The fact that Pakistan needed to win in order to stay in contention for the final added an edge to the contest. After opting to bat, Pakistan were served well by Salman Butt (74), who built stands of 71 with Imran Farhat and 73 with Shoaib Malik for the second and third wickets respectively.


Malik was second out at 144 in the 28th over, soon after which Butt perished as well. Pakistan lost steam thereafter, and were limited to 267, despite Kamran Akmal’s 51. Gambhir took charge of India’s chase with a fluent 83, and his third-wicket association with skipper MS Dhoni (56) realised 98 runs. By the time Gambhir was dismissed, India’s target had been reduced to 88 from 86 balls. But the Pakistani spinners dented the middle order, leaving India at 219/6 in 45.1 overs.


With the equation now 49 from 29, the scales appeared to be tilting towards Pakistan. Suresh Raina had other ideas though, and his rapid 34 changed the game again. India were only seven away from victory when the last over, bowled by Mohammad Amir, began. Raina was run out off the second ball to add to the drama, and it soon boiled down to three from two. Harbhajan Singh finished off in style, clouting the penultimate ball for six to hand India a three-wicket win.   


Bangladesh v Pakistan, Final, Dhaka, 2011-12

Wins over India and Sri Lanka spurred Bangladesh to their first ever Asia Cup final, played at the Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur. Not only did the Tigers have a chance to create history in front of their home crowd, but also avenge their 21-run loss to Pakistan in the league stage. Bangladesh, led by wicketkeeper Mushfiqur Rahim, elected to field to first, and the decision looked justified as Pakistan were reduced to 19/2, and further to 70/4 in the 22nd over.


Umar Akmal and Hammad Azam repaired the damage with a 59-run partnership for the fifth wicket, but both fell within the space of four runs - Pakistan were now 133/6 and in danger of being bowled out. A rearguard effort from wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed (46*) gave a much-needed boost to the innings, which terminated at 236/9. Sarfraz added 45 with Shahid Afridi for the seventh wicket, and more crucially, an unbroken 30 with Aizaz Cheema for the tenth wicket.


Tamim Iqbal (60) and Nazimuddin added 68 for the first wicket, before three quick wickets, including Tamim’s, sent the score to 81/3. Nasir Hossain and Shakib Al Hasan (68) consolidated with a fourth-wicket stand of 89, but the rising required rate inevitably led to a steady fall of wickets. Cheema (3/46) began the last over with Bangladesh needing nine. He allowed only six off it, besides taking a wicket, as the distraught Tigers tearfully saw the innings wind up at 234/8.


India v Pakistan, League Stage, Dhaka, 2013-14

The fiercest rivalry in ODI history produced another enthralling chapter, as a see-sawing battle at Mirpur culminated in remarkable fashion. India lost Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli early, but Rohit Sharma (56) carried the score to 92/2 before falling to debutant pacer Mohammad Talha. Talha also removed Ajinkya Rahane soon after, the score now reading a tricky 103/4. Ambati Rayudu (58) came to the rescue, and he shared in a fifth-wicket stand of 52 with Dinesh Karthik.


Rayudu added another 59 for the sixth wicket with Ravindra Jadeja (52*) before being dismissed by off-spinner Saeed Ajmal (3/40). Ajmal took two more wickets at the death as the Indian innings drew to a close at 245/8. Pakistani openers Sharjeel Khan and Ahmed Shehzad (42) raced away with intent, putting on 71 in just 11 overs. However, off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin (3/44) and leg-spinner Amit Mishra combined to induce a slide to 113/4 by the 23rd over.


Mohammad Hafeez (75) dropped anchor, and along with Sohaib Maqsood, steered the total to 200/4 before becoming Ashwin’s second victim. India fought back with a flurry of wickets, and when Ajmal was bowled by Ashwin off the first ball of the final over, Pakistan still needed ten. Number eleven Junaid Khan took a vital single, giving Afridi the strike. Afridi (34*) was up to the task, as he duly biffed two successive sixes to steal a last-gasp one-wicket win for Pakistan. 


Bangladesh v Pakistan, League Stage, Dhaka, 2013-14

Two days later, the Shere Bangla National Stadium witnessed another blitz from Afridi’s blade, which sealed Pakistan’s spot in the final against Sri Lanka. Bangladesh delighted their supporters by amassing an imposing 326/3, then their highest ODI total, after deciding to bat first. Four batsmen crossed fifty, with Anamul Haque (100) being the top scorer. Pakistan’s response began in a positive manner, as Shehzad (103) and Hafeez (52) put together 97 runs for the first wicket.


After Pakistan slipped to 105/3, Shehzad and Fawad Alam added 105 for the fourth wicket. But Bangladesh held the aces when the fifth wicket fell, at which point Pakistan needed a steep 102 from 52 balls. Afridi entered at this stage, and proceeded to make a mockery of the challenging equation. He stormed to his fifty in just 18 balls, and by the time he was out for a 25-ball 59, inclusive of seven monstrous sixes, the target was whittled down to a gettable 33 from 19 balls. 


Alam ensured that the momentum was not lost, and the final over started with Pakistan needing only three more. Though he was run out for a measured 74 off the fourth ball, he had done enough. With two needed from two deliveries, Umar Akmal hit the winning four to seal a stirring three-wicket win, thus completing Pakistan’s highest successful ODI chase. Bangladesh, runners-up of the previous edition in 2011-12, finished the tournament without a single win. 

 

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Rustom Deboo is a cricket aficionado and freelance writer from Mumbai. He is an ardent devotee of T...

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