The 2018 Asia Cup is billed as “World Cup 2019 preparation” for the Asian teams. India, who won the title (Twenty20 event in 2016) will defend their title in a 50-over format so as to give teams an ideal preparation for the World Cup.
The biggest charm of this year’s Asia Cup is that Pakistan and India will be meeting for the first time in United Arab Emirates for the first time since 2006. For the connoisseurs of the game, there could be three matches between the arch-rivals, once in the group, then in the Super Four and if both qualifies, it will be an exciting final.
Fans are excited not only across the border but all those who live as expats in the UAE as all tickets for the high voltage clash on September 19 were sold in no time.
Asia Cup, started in UAE (Sharjah) in 1984, has thrown some exciting matches. Here are five of the best we have picked:
Pakistan beat Bangladesh in a thrilling final
The Final of the 2012 Asia Cup was thrilling as well as heartbreaking for the hosts, Bangladesh. Chasing a modest 237 run target, the hosts were well on course for a victory with 23 runs required of 18 ball and four wickets in hand. A packed Mirpur stadium was hoping of a home win and the first Asia Cup title with Prime Minister Haseena Wajid itching to hand the trophy to the home captain, Mushfiqur Rahim.
But Pakistan’s unassuming medium pacer Aizaz Cheema broke local hearts by defending nine runs in the last over. Bangladesh had a recognized batsman in Mahmudullah at the crease who took a single off the first ball. Abdur Razzak took a leg-bye off the next only to see Aizaz beat Mahmudullah off the third.
To everyone’s surprise Mahmudullah took three runs – instead of two and keeping the strike – which allowed Pakistan to attack Razzak who was bowed off the fifth delivery. Bangladesh needed a boundary off the last delivery as number ten Shahadat Hossain walked to the bated breaths of the crowd. Aizaz bowled a superb leg-side Yorker off which only one leg-bye could be scored.
Bangladesh fans were upset, even the PM walked away without handing the trophy to Pakistan. Much fuss followed as Bangladesh filed a complaint against Cheema, alleging he obstructed the batsman. The Asian Cricket Council rejected the appeal as the incident was not reported by on-field umpires.
Pakistan had labored to 236-9 in their allotted 50 overs with Sarfraz Ahmed (46), Mohammad Hafeez (40) and man of the match Shahid Afridi (32 and 1-28) were the main contributors. Cheema fetched three wickets. This was Pakistan’s second and to date last Asia Cup title.
Shahid Afridi shocked India
Shahid Afridi only made 34 not out, but his two sixes off successive balls not only shocked the Indian team but brought the crowd to their feet.
Pakistan needed ten off Ravichandaran Ashwin’s last over as they were chasing a target of 246. Ashwin had Saeed Ajmal off the first delivery to strengthen India’s chances. Pakistan’s last man Junaid Khan somehow put bat on a deceitful delivery and ran for his life to the other end. Next ball, Afridi made room and sent it over the moon through extra cover. The next six never looked like crossing the boundary but, maybe, it was divine help that carried the ball over the long-on boundary as an aghast Ashwin and a furious Virat Kohli – captain in the tournament – looked on.
India were helped to 245-8 through half centuries from Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu and Ravindra Jadeja. Saeed Ajmal took three wickets to stop India’s progress.
Sachin’s 100th hundred goes in vain in 2012
Bangladesh spoiled Sachin Tendulkar’s grand occasion of compiling his 100th international hundred in all forms of the game with an upset victory.
The glorious feat of the Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar had come in a losing cause. Tendulkar’s 114 runs came from 147 deliveries in an Indian total of 289 runs. Bangladesh, though, had the last laugh as they chased down the target in the final over for the loss of five wickets to qualify for their maiden Asia Cup final. Tamim Iqbal (70), Nasir Hossein (54), Juhurul Islam (53), Shakib Al Hasan (49) and Mushfiqur Rahim (46 not out) all made sure the home crowd do not go regretting the result.
Afridi again broke Bangladeshi hearts
The sight of Bangladeshi girls crying and getting consolation is still etched in the memory as Shahid Afridi’s whirlwind knock snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Pakistan romped home by chasing their highest target in a one-day international of 327 while Bangladesh were left to rue their luck as they ran into an unstoppable Afridi.
Bangladesh had piled up 326-3 with a brisk hundred by opener Anamul Haque. He was ably supported by half centuries from Imrul Kayes, Mominul Haque and Mushfiqur Rahim while all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan made 44 not out.
Pakistan were lifted by a resolute hundred by Ahmed Shahzad and a half century by Mohammad Hafeez as they put on 97 in the 21st over. Fawad Alam chipped in with 74 but the asking rate soared as Afridi walked out to bat. He changed the complexion of the game with a fiery 25-ball 59 with seven towering sixes – each hit the fans like a hammer in the heart. Pakistan chased down the target with just one ball to spare as most of the Bangldeshi fans in the stands and players on the field were left with teary eyes.
Mohammad Amir at his best against India
The Asia Cup was held in Twenty20 format to allow teams to tune up for the World Twenty20 in India.
India sent Pakistan into bat and had them bundled out for a mere 83 with 2.3 overs still to play. The hunky dory Pakistan’s batting had only two scores of double figures, 25 by Sarfraz Ahmed and ten by Khurram Manzoor.
With a strong Indian batting line-up the target looked like a cake-walk but Mohammad Amir, returning from a five-year ban on match fixing a month earlier jolted the much vaunted Indian batting. Amir had Rohit Sharma second ball and then trapped Ajinka Rahane off the fourth to send shivers in the Indian camp.
Next over, Amir had Suresh Raina as India slumped to 3-8 in the third over. To his luck Virat Kohli survived some close calls to lead India to victory in the 16th over.
But the match will be long remembered for Amir’s superb initial burst of two overs.