Medal-chasing Bangladesh side faced minnows Malaysia in the quarter-final stage of the Asian Games. The tigers from the sub-continent were eager to stamp their authority on the tournament with a strong performance. The Malaysians had very different ambitions: the hunt for an upset on the international stage. ZIUT Cricket Field in Hangzhou was the battleground for the clash between the teams that had a gulf in class, experience, and quality.
Bangladesh fielded a strong-looking eleven with four international players against a defiant Malaysian side.
- Parvez Hossain Emon 2. Mahmudul Hasan Joy 3. Zakir Hasan 4. Saif Hassan (Cap.) 5. Afif Hossain 6. Shahadat Hossain 7. Jaker Ali (WK) 8. Rakibul Hasan 9. Rishad Hossain 10. Sulaman Khan 11. Ripon Mondol
- Syed Aziz 2. Zubaidi Zulkifle 3. Muhammad Amir 4. Fayez Ahmed (Cap) 5. Virandeep Singh 6. Vijay Unni 7. Sharvin Muniandy 8. Ainool Hafizs 9. Anwar Rahman 10. Syazrul Idrus 11. Pavandeep Singh
Bangladesh won the toss and skipper Saif Hassan opted for a bat first.
Captaincy & Tactics
The Malaysians showed their cricketing acumen by bowling spinners from the beginning. All of their five bowlers were spinners. Bangladeshi top order simply did not have any answer to the slow bowling and started to lose their grip on the match.
The Bangladeshi captain deserves credit for trusting his spinners to finish the game off. Rishad Hossain did not bowl particularly well in his first spell. But the leggie was brought back into the attack on the 19th over. Skipper Saif Hassan also put faith in the experienced shoulders of Afif Hossain. With 93 international games under his belt, the part-time off-spinner eventually proved to be the match-winner.
The pitch turned out to be a tricky one as the ball was bouncing sharply after hitting the ground. Bangladeshi collapse started very early with debutant Mahmudul Hasan Joy was run out without facing a single well. He is the second international cricketer from Bangladesh to get a “diamond duck” on debut.
After struggling with the timing for 7 balls, Parvez Hossain Emon was trapped in front by a good length delivery by Vijay Unni. Zakir Hasan quickly followed suit with an edge to the unconventional gully. Bangladesh was reeling at the score of 3/3 after just 2.5 overs.
The internationally experienced pair of Saif Hassan and Afif Hossain started the repair act with a stand of 38 runs. Afif Hossain raced to 23 with 20 of those runs coming from boundaries. Saif Hassan continued to play shots in the offside, 68% of his runs came on that side. The Bangladeshi captain posted an unbeaten 50 to get his side to a fighting score. Cameos from Shahadat Hossain and Jaker Ali kept the runs flowing.
After an early collapse, Syed Aziz and Virandeep Singh started the repair act for Malaysia. Virandeep was in sumptuous touch and hit the ball all around the park. The Punjabi descent batter hit four sixes to keep the run chase well within reach. His strike rate of 133.33 is the highest of the match. But his partners could not support him properly and threw their wickets by playing unnecessary shots.
Eventually, it came down to 4 runs from 3 balls. Virandeep mistimed a heave and was caught at long on the boundary. The Malaysian dream of a famous upset was tarnished at that moment.
Malaysian spinners bowled with aplomb early on. They maneuvered the sharp bounce of the wicket to good effect. Pavandeep Singh really caught the eye with his slow left-arm orthodox. The southpaw bowled 18 dot balls and conceded just 12 runs from his four overs. He also got two wickets including the prized scalp of Afif Hossain. Virandeep was also frugal with just 13 runs from his spell. Vijay Unni was the most expensive of the bunch, he conceded 46 from his four.
Malaysia also toiled during the early part of their innings. Medium-pace bowler Ripon Mondol was hitting the right lengths to make life difficult on a tricky track. But spin bowling proved to be the pivotal difference maker once again with Saif Hassan and Afif Hossain returning with ball in hand.
The duo stifled the run rate with crafty and controlled bowling. Afif picked up wickets in successive balls to reduce Malaysia to 18/3 at one stage. But some heavy hitting from Virandeep brought Malaysia back into the game.
Bangladeshi bowlers conceded 29 runs from the 16th and 17th over as the momentum swung towards the Malaysian side. Captain Saif Hassan returned to the attack and gave away just six runs. The equation was simple: 12 balls, 10 runs. And Virandeep hit the first ball of Rishad to the boundary. With just 6 needed from 11, Rishad and then Afif bowled dexterously to clinch a hard-fought victory.
Both teams struggled early on to keep their footing on a tricky ground. But the overall fielding quality was good. Team Malaysia belied their lack of experience with an athletic performance in the field. The highlight was the catch of Zakir Hasan taken by Pavandeep Singh.
Bangladeshi fielders delivered in a time of desperate need as well. Mahmudul Hasan Joy could not face a single delivery when he batted, but he held on to a crucial catch of Virandeep to win the game for his country.
It was a game of two all-rounders. Afif Hossain came out to bat with all guns blazing and later delivered a controlled performance with the bat. Virandeep Singh was stingy with the ball. His daredevil fifty almost won the game for Malaysia. But the lack of experience of his teammates let him down. It was too close, yet too far.
Malaysia was in pole position to record a seismic victory over a test-playing nation for the first time in their history. Virandeep Singh was at the crease in the final over with just five runs needed from six balls. The international experience of Afif Hossain showed with three successive dot balls.
Virandeep seized the opportunity on the fourth ball, and Afif gave the ball some air. Virandeep’s bat met the ball powerfully and it was going towards the long-on boundary. Mahmudul Joy completed a great catch under pressure to send the in-form batter back to the pavilion along with the Malaysian hopes. The momentum swung towards the Tigers and they held on to secure a nervy victory.
Bangladesh emerged victorious from the thrilling contest with a win by 2 runs.
Player of the Match
For his innings of 23 with the bat and match-winning bowling performance, Afif Hossain was the unofficial man of the match.
|Bangladesh Total:||Nepal Total:|
|Saif Hassan 50* (52)||Virandeep Singh 52 (39)|
|Afif Hossain 23 (14)||Syed Aziz 20 (31)|
|Pavandeep Singh 2/12||Afif Hossain 3/11|
|Anwar Rahman 1/23||Ripon Mondol 3/14|
Bangladesh survived a massive scare at the hands of Malaysia. The upset seemed to be sealed before the final over. But Afif Hossain kept his nerve to send his country through to the last four. Malaysian cricket will rue this loss for a long time. But the cricketers showing courage and determination against an established side is a good sign for cricket in the Southeast Asian country.