The Bangladesh T20 International cricket side scored a shocking upset of Asia Cup defending champions Sri Lanka on Sunday, to put the Tigers one win away from advancing to the 2016 Cup Final and a chance at the first title in a major tournament in the history of the cricket-mad country.
The host nation was led with the bat by a spectacular stand from third-in-the-order Sabbir Rahman, whose 80 off 54 balls accounted for nearly 55 percent of his team’s 147 total after Bangladesh won the toss and elected to bat on a dry, grass-free pitch.
Watch exciting highlights of the unprecedented Bangladesh victory over Sri Lanka in the video below.
The win over Sri Lanka was the first ever by a Bangladesh side in a T20 match. With the losses to retirement of legendary batting duo Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, Sri Lanka has fallen hard since 2014 when they not only won the Asia Cup, but also the T20 Cricket World Cup champions as well.
Bangladesh made history by advancing to the quarterfinals of the Cricket World Cup in 2015, the first time the country’s team had ever escaped the group stage of the most prestigious tournament in the sport. But they were slaughtered by India in the 50-overs quarterfinal, losing by 109.
In 2012, Bangladesh — hosting the Asia Cup, as they are this year as well — made it all the way to the final of the world’s only continental cricket championship, only to miss out by an excruciating two runs, also in a One Day International match.
And then in February of this year, the Bangladesh Under-19 squad powered their way to the seimfinals of the U19 Cricket World Cup, their best performance ever in that tournament, before falling to eventual winner West Indies by three wickets.
But by defeating Sri Lanka on Sunday in a T20 match — the Asia Cup is held entirely in T20 format in 2016 — by a definitive 23 runs, Bangladesh must now only beat traditional rival Pakistan, in a rematch of the 2012 final, to secure a spot in the 2016 Asia Cup Grand Final game.
In theory, Sri Lanka could still nip Bangladesh out of that second-place finish, with its guaranteed berth in the Final, but the islanders task would be a difficult one to say the least. Not only would Sri Lanka, who not only fell to hosts Bangladesh, but barely escaped against qualifier United Arab Emirates in their opener. They would need to defeat Pakistan themselves, but would also need an improbable win over world top-ranked India — the clear tournament favorite — on Tuesday.
And those two wins might still not be enough for Sri Lanka to steal second place from Bangladesh. Sri Lanka would need convincing wins in both games, in order to overcome their net run rate deficit to the Tigers and break the tie.
Of course, the whole scenario depends on Bangladesh defeating Pakistan on Wednesday. If the Tigers falter, their road to the final suddenly becomes highly improbable.
— TCS Sri Lanka (@TCrS_SriLanka) February 28, 2016
But with a return to form by previously struggling Bangladesh star all-rounder, Shakib Al Hasan, the outlook remains positive for the tournament hosts.
“Shakib is a human being, not an alien,” commented Bangladesh Captain Mashrafe Mortaza following Sunday’s win. “To be honest, I was never concerned about him. It is good that he has stepped up. He has always done well and hopefully he will continue. He is one of our biggest players and we always want him to perform.”
Shakib scored 32 off of 34 for the second-highest Bangladesh total of the day against Sri Lanka. He then took two wickets for just 21 runs, combining with a three-wicket haul by Al-Amin Hossain and a one-wicket, 19-run outing by 20-year-old sensation Mustafizur Rahamn to stifle the Sri Lanka chase.
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If Bangladesh do qualify for the Asia Cup T20 cricket Grand Final, they will most likely face India who already defeated the Tigers once in the competition — by 45 runs in the tournament opening match.
[Featured Photo By A.M. Ahad/Associated Press]