Bangladesh through to last-four stage of Asia Cup 2018

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Tamim, memorably holding the bat with his top hand grip

Injured Tamim’s courage inspires Mushfiq’s best 144

Bangladesh have got through to last-four stage of the 14th edition Asia Cup as the first team with one match to spare as it got a 137-run victory in the tournament opener over a hapless Sri Lanka. The five-time champions side, Sri Lanka, got eliminated from the race conceding another loss by 91-runs in their Group ‘B’ match against ICC’s new full member nation Afghanistan.

Bangladesh’s quest to a rousing start in the six-nation fray witnessed a set of passionate and mesmerizing sequences amid desert night at Dubai International Cricket Stadium in the UAE on September 15 where Mashrafe Bin Mortaza-led Bangladesh opted to bat first to post a 261 for all in 49.3 overs and restricted Sri Lanka on 124 for all in 35.2 overs.

It will be remembered for the injured Tamim Iqbal’s return to the crease to bat with just one hand, after retiring hurt very early in the innings. The gesture amazed most of the onlookers, who got to watch a valiant show of Mushfiqur Rahim for an ultimate match-winning century of 144 runs, alongside his sharing a 131-run partnership with Mohammad Mithun -- the maiden international half-centurion with 63 runs.

Mushfiq walked in with Bangladesh in trouble at 1/2, which soon became 2/3 - or effectively a 3/3 in the very first over as opener Tamim, who retired hurt after being hit in the hand by a short ball from Suranga Lakmal, and was the last man out, facing 150 balls to fire 11 boundaries and four sixes, off the third ball of the 50th over.

The first part of it was spent rebuilding an innings in tatters as Mushfiq walked in for his principal partnership with Mithun before the story did take a more spirited and admirable turning towards the end of the Bangladesh innings where Tamim -- the country’s most prolific batsman in all three formats of the game -- surprised all, which included even Mushfiq.

Mustafizur Rahman was departed in the 47th over, the scorecard read 229/9 and it could’ve been it. But that was the time when an injured Tamim decided to make a brave entry with his one hand bandaged leaving just a hand to hold the bat. He provided full support to Mushy in raising the team’s score.

The return on this heroic act, courtesy of Mushfiq’s determination to pay his mate back, was enough to lift Bangladesh beyond the reach of the Lankans, who watched demoralized as the next 16 balls served up 32 runs to the team total.

Tamim, memorably holding the bat with his top hand grip, would face just one of those, the last ball of the 47th, that he fended away off Malinga. After that, it was the Mushy show.

Tamim is missing out the rest of the tournament with a fractured wrist and will remain out of cricket for about six-week but his act created buzz among cricket fraternity as well as at the social media platforms.

Mushfiq and skipper Mashrafe paid tribute to Tamim’s courage.

“(I was) really surprised to see Tamim come to bat, it’s a great gesture. When I saw him, it boosted me to do something for him and for my country,” said Mushfiq after being declared player of the match.

“People should always remember him [Tamim],” said Mashrafe, “It was Tamim’s decision whether to come out again. If he doesn’t want to bat, no one could push him. The credit goes to him, he took the decision.”

Before walked in to bat, What Tamim felt?

“I felt very brave in those ten seconds when the bowler was running in,” Tamim said to media. “I was very pumped up after hearing the roar in the stadium.”

“It was quite risky now that I think about it… If I had missed the ball, it would have hit my hand. Nobody expected that I’d play that one ball and 32 runs will come from the other end. Mushfiq batted in an extraordinary manner,” he continued.

“I don’t think I have experienced such a thing in my life. I can see all the reactions [now], but when I was going out to bat or facing that delivery, I didn’t think of what might happen afterward. I just went there for the team and country,” he added.

Mushfiq’s 144 in the Asia Cup 2018 opener is the highest individual score for Bangladesh in the tournament as well as the joint second-highest of all time.

His century stands only below Virat Kohli’s 183, which the Indian scored against Pakistan in Mirpur in 2012, and is tied with Younis Khan’s144 for Pakistan against Hong Kong in 2004. However, Younis faced fewer balls than Rahim - 122 to 150.

Tamim-less Bangladesh will play the next and their last group match against Afghanistan at Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi on September 20.

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