Bangladesh ended India’s stranglehold on the women’s Asia Cup with a nail-biting three-wicket win in the final at Kuala Lampur on Sunday. If it was the batters who earned Bangladesh women’s first win against India in any format earlier in the week, a compact all-round bowling performance earned them this historic title triumph.
India severely under-performed and had it not been for skipper Harmanpreet Kaur’s 56 from 42 balls and spinner Poonam Yadav’s spell of 4/9, this could have been a one-sided contest.
India’s batters wilted in the early overs. The Bangladesh bowlers, meanwhile, hardly put a foot wrong during the powerplay, not allowing them to score easy runs, and had seen the back of the dangerous Smriti Mandhana.
What truly put India on the back-foot were the wickets of Deepti Sharma, Mithali Raj and Anuja Patil, which came in the space of 10 deliveries. Patil was found guilty of obstructing the field while taking a quick-single, and was given out after the decision was referred to the third umpire.
Harmanpreet and Veda Krishnamurthy took India to safety, stitching a steady 30-run stand before Bangladesh skipper Salma Khatun bowled the latter around her legs. Harmanpreet then rallied with the tail, farming strike and finding the boundaries with equal ease. A natural leg-side player, it was Harmanpreet’s off-side play that stood out today.
In reply, Bangladesh batters did exactly what their counterparts couldn’t – maneuvering strike in the powerplay overs and finding the odd boundary. They got 33 from the first six overs and importantly, didn’t lose any wickets. But the introduction of Poonam brought a dramatic change in proceedings. Openers Shamima Sultana and Ayasha Rahman were dismissed off back-to-back deliveries.
Bangladesh, though, were still well in the contest and there were important contributions from almost all of their middle-order batters – Fargana Hoque, Rumana Ahmed and Nigar Sultana.
Nigar also landed arguably the most telling blow, hammering veteran Jhulan Goswami for 16 runs in the 15 over. It came at a crucial time as India were clawing their way back through tidy bowling from their spinners.
There were several twists and turns as the match proceeded towards the finish line. There were two wickets in the final over, which was bowled by Harmanpreet. But Bangladesh were unfazed as Jahanara Alam and Khatun showed nerves of steel as they scampered for two runs off the last ball. It sparked off wild celebrations with hordes of Bangladeshi fans rushing onto the pitch in delight.