Pakistan's sputtering Asia Cup 2018 campaign came to an end on Wednesday following a chastening 37-run defeat at the hands of Bangladesh in Abu Dhabi.
After Bangladesh won the toss and opted to bat first, Liton Das and Soumya Sarkar opened their innings, whereas Junaid Khan and Shaheen Afridi shared the new ball for Pakistan.
Junaid, playing his first match of the tournament, made an almost instant impact as he removed Sarkar for naught in the 3rd over.
Mominul Haq walked in to join Das but his stay at the crease didn't last long as Afridi bowled him out in the very next over — the fourth of the innings.
Junaid tripled Bangladesh's troubles by shattering Das' stumps with a peach of a delivery in the 5th over, at the end of which the score stood 12-3.
With three wickets having tumbled in three straight overs, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mohammad Mithun went on the defensive to plug the leak. After 10 overs, the Tigers were 27-3.
Runs were relatively easier to come by in the next five overs as the Rahim, Mithun pairing mixed singles and doubles with boundaries every now and then. By the end of 15 overs, Bangladesh were 55-3 and somewhat recovered from the triple setbacks.
Rahim, who had scored a magnificent 144 in the victory of Sri Lanka earlier in the tournament, was growing in confidence, easily dealing with whatever Pakistani spinners hurled at him.
With 20 overs gone, Bangladesh were 83-3, and Pakistan had all but squandered the impact of the three-wicket break earlier in the innings.
Pakistan bowling showed some signs of resurgence between overs 20 and 25 but it did not reap a wicket. At the halfway mark, the Tigers were 107-3 and certainly back in the game.
The 26th over saw Rahim bring up his half-century as well as his 100 partnership with Mithun.
Hasan Ali was reintroduced into the attack in the 27th over and he should have had his breakthrough when he forced Rahim to nick one to the slip cordon, which unfortunately for him was empty as his skipper had removed the catcher prior to that over.
Junaid was also brought back as Sarfraz fished for the wicket his side badly needed but once again absent was the attacking intent as the slip cordon was empty, although it may also have had something to do with Junaid's bowling angle.
At the end of the 30th over, the Tigers were 138-3, and hoping for a total in excess of 270.
The Bangladeshi batters brought up their 150 in the 33rd over bowled by Afridi, who was the third pacer reintroduced into the attack by Sarfraz in search of the elusive breakthrough.
Hasan finally broke Rahim, Mithun's 144-run partnership in the 34th over when he had the latter playing an ugly hoick. He was caught by Hasan off his own bowling, having contributed 60 off 84 balls.
New man Imrul Kayes drove Afridi for a four in the 35th over, at the end of which Bangladesh were 163-4. But the southpaw did not last long as Shadab had him trapped in front of the wickets in the 37th over; he made just 9 runs.
The twin wickets dried up the runs for Bangladesh, who were now hoping that the jaded Rahim bats till the end.
At 99, Rahim was on the verge of completing his second ton of the tournament when Afridi had him caught behind in the 42nd over, giving him a heartache to go with his aching legs.
The pace trio of Junaid, Afridi and Hasan were finally bowling up to their reputations as Bangladesh were faultering. By the end of 45 overs, the Tigers were 221-6.
Junaid picked up his third wicket of the day in the 46th over, dismissing Mehidy Hasan Miraz as captain Mashrafe Mortaza walked in. The comeback kid struck again in the 48th over, this time unsettling the stumps of Mahmudullah.
In the 49th over, Mortaza launched Hasan for a six over midwicket. That proved to be the innings' first and only maximum as Bangladesh lost both their remaining wickets in the same over, finishing with 239 all out.
The run chase
The start to their run chase began in the worst possible manner as they lost opener Fakhar Zaman and star batsman Babar Azam in the first two overs.
With his team in more than a spot of bother, skipper Sarfraz promoted him up the order and played a few decent strokes, raising the hopes that a captain's knock might be in store for the fans.
However, he unnecessarily chased a wide Mustafizur Rahman delivery and nicked it to the keeper. At this point, disaster mode was well and truly on.
Not for the first time in the tournament, Shoaib Malik walked in knowing that if the team has to win, he'd have to anchor the innings.
After 5 overs, Pakistan were 21-3 and in desperate need for Imam and Malik to provide a solid stand for a chance to keep their side in the tournament.
A couple quiet overs later, Malik came alive in the 8th, dispatching Mustafizur Rehman for two fours to relieve some pressure before runs dried up again. At the end of 10 overs, Pakistan were 37-3.
Imam took some risk in the 13th over, coming down the track and hitting it over mid-off for a much-needed boundary. However, that was an anomaly rather than the pair's SOP at the time, as both were content with picking up singles.
When the teams were given a drinks break at the end of 15 overs, Pakistan were 56-3 and in need of 184 runs with 7 wickets in hand. The required run-rate was also a very manageable 5.25.
On the final ball of the 17th over, Imam glanced one to the fine-leg boundary to bring up his 50-run partnership with Malik.
Bangladesh captain Mortaza held on to a blinder of a catch in the 21st over to send danger man Malik back in the dug out.
Malik was replaced by Shadab, who seemed to have little clue how to operate, consuming 24 balls for just 4 runs before departing on the first ball of the 26th over.
Asif Ali walked in to replace Shadab but refrained from playing his natural attacking game earlier on. At the end of the 30th over, Pakistan were 108-5 and needed more than a run a ball to win.
In the 31st over, Imam completed his third half-century of the tournament; it took him 72 balls. The youngster's job, however, was far from done as the situation now required him to expedite his learning and anchor the Pakistan innings till the end.
Mustafizur was brought back in the 34th over and it seemed to have done the trick when he produced an edge off Asif's bat. But Das, the wicketkeeper, inexplicable attempted to grab it with one hand and spilled it.
Imam hit a six to start off the 35th over, at the end of which the scoreboard read 140-5. The need for Pakistan at this point was off 100 runs off 90 balls — which when read this way, seemed pretty achievable.
The duo brought up their 50-run partnership in the 36th over as Bangladesh started to feel a little uncomfortable with their resilience.
Just when it seemed Pakistan were taking control of the match, Asif (31 off 47 balls) was stumped by Miraz in what was a wicket-maiden 40th over. With just 60 balls left, Pakistan required 75 runs and had four wickets in hand.
Imam, who was lecturing Asif minutes ago for his casual dismissal, himself made a rash decision of coming down the track and was stumped out. That concluded his 105-ball 83-run innings and put Bangladesh back on top.
Imam's departure sucked the life out of Pakistan's run chase, and even though their tale survived a full 50 overs, the game as a contest had long been over.
In the end, the Greenshirts finished with 202-9 — 37 runs short of their target.
Pakistan: Fakhar Zaman, Imamul Haq, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed (c, wk), Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Hasan Ali, Junaid Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi
Bangladesh: Liton Das, Soumya Sarkar, Mohammad Mithun, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Mominul Haque, Imrul Kayes, Mahmudullah, Mashrafe Mortaza (c), Mehidy Hasan, Rubel Hossain, Mustafizur Rahman