Bangladesh book their place in the Nidahas Trophy final after an incredible last-gasp victory over Sri Lanka.
Mahmudullah, who held his cool while slamming a belligerent 18-ball 43, was the man of the hour as Bangladesh defeated Bangladesh on the penultimate delivery of the match in a thrilling encounter in Colombo.
Sri Lanka’s pair of Pereras – Kusal and Thisara – can count themselves unlucky to be on the losing side, as their 97-run partnership had earlier carried Sri Lanka out of the mire to post a respectable 159/9.
There was no room for slip-ups going into the final round-robin game of the Twenty20 International tri-series in Colombo on Friday 16 March. The equation was simple: The winners go through to the final of the Nidahas Trophy, where India awaits. The losers are out.
Replying to Sri Lanka’s first innings score of 159/9, Thisara Perera was back in the game when he caught a mis-hit from the in-form Liton Das at mid-off off the bowling of Akila Dananjaya.
The wicket of Sabbir Rahman (13), who was dealing in boundaries, made it 13/2 when Dananjaya floated one outside off before the ball dipped and turned passed the batsman's inside edge as Kusal completed the stumping.
Bangladesh then lent on the experience of Mushfiqur Rahim and Tamim Iqbal to guide them through a vital period, as they elevated the hosts to 50 by the end of the Powerplay.
The seventh over saw Gunathilaka throw five wides before Tamim smashed a maximum over long-on, while four singles and a six off the eighth ushered Bangladesh into a commanding 69/2, which turned into 95/2 off 12 before Sri Lanka were given hope.
Mushfiqur fell to a flighted Amila Aponso delivery, smashing it straight to extra-cover. Shortly after recording his half-century, Tamim skipped down the track to get a thick outside edge, which Kusal pouched tidily, before Soumya Sarkar – again caught by Kusal, bowled Mendis for 10 – had Bangladesh ambling at 109/5.
Mahmudullah continued to play his shots but Shakib flat-batted an innocuous delivery off Udana to Dananjaya at fine leg – a ball he could have hit anywhere.
Mahmudullah kept calm in the carnage, nudging a couple of twos, before a successful ramp shot evaded short fine-leg and then shovelling one away for three, leaving Bangladesh 12 runs shy with six balls remaining.
A failed Sri Lanka review added to the tension as the first two balls off the final over were dots, while Bangladeshi fielders clashed with Sri Lanka’s batsmen as tempers flared in an intense finale.
A pumped Mahmudullah slammed one wide of deep-cover for four before flicking Udana over deep square for a maximum to register a famous win on the penultimate delivery of the game.
Earlier in the day, it came as a huge boost to Bangladesh when Shakib Al Hasan joined the squad in time for the encounter after recovering from a finger injury. The star all-rounder and skipper won the toss and opted to chase.
It didn’t take long for the skipper to find his groove as opener Danushka Gunathilaka skipped down the track looking to thump the bowler out of the ground but didn’t get enough on it as Sabbir Rahman took a running catch at long-off.
Shakib then brought Mustafizur into the attack when the in-form Kusal Mendis strolled to the crease. The last ball of the over dropped short and Mendis skewed a pull-shot to short-midwicket to make it 22/2.
After five overs, Sri Lanka were going along rather leisurely at 29/2. It got worst for the hosts when Upul Tharanga was run-out with a joint effort from Mehedi, who gathered the ball, and Mustafizur, who whipped off the bails.
31/3 became 32/4 when Dasun Shanaka fell first ball, as Mustafizur shaped the ball away to find the edge before the keeper completed the scalp. Sri Lanka were in a precarious position at 35/4 after the Powerplay.
Jeevan Mendis fell in the eighth over when Mehedi looped one outside the off-stump before a trademark sweep found the top-edge, which Mustafizur caught at short fine leg.
It was left to the Pereras to fix the damage, as they put on 97 for the sixth wicket. Two boundaries on the trot off Rubel Hossain was quickly followed with a massive tonk over deep mid-wicket off Mustafizur.
Kusal Perera brought up his 10th T20I half-century with a nudge to short midwicket. He eventually fell for 61 from 40 balls – Sarkar the man to remove him, courtesy of a diving catch from Mehidy Hasan.
Thisara Perera soon brought up his maiden T20I half-century – a captain’s knock when his team needed it the most. His resistance soon ended, though, when Rubel deceived the Sri Lankan captain with a slower ball, which was spooned to Tamim Iqbal in the mid-off region. Having overcome a shaky start, Sri Lanka finished their innings on a respectable 159/5.
Bangladesh will face India in the final in Colombo on Sunday 18 March.