Success in defending runs in the final overs at the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) influenced Mashrafe Mortaza's decision to hand Mahmudullah the ball with India needing six runs off six balls in the Asia Cup final. Mashrafe had earlier considered throwing the ball to Soumya Sarkar, for his military medium, but changed his mind later.
Mashrafe also took the bold call of finishing off Mustafizur Rahman's quota in the 49th over, instead of keeping him back for the last over. That, he explained, was down to his spinners having an off day. "It would've been ideal if I could've used Rubel [Hossain] or Mustafizur at the end, but it wasn't an ideal situation," Mashrafe explained. "I asked Mahmudullah if he was confident. He had the experience of bowling in these situations in the last over in the BPL. Soumya would have been easier to score off. We wanted them to mis-hit one, and then you never know.
"I said to (Mahmudullah) Riyad that the only chance we will have is when they mis-hit one. We wanted Kuldeep [Yadav] to mis-hit one, because [Kedar] Jadhav is a recognised batsman. He would have better calculations. The inside edge off the fifth ball could have gone to the stumps. Actually, you need luck in these situations, but when we had it under control, we couldn't capitalise."
When MS Dhoni was dismissed in the 37th over, India still needed 63 runs off 83 with five wickets in hand. Mashrafe, however, could bowl just two overs of spin in the next seven overs even as the surface slowed down considerably to make shot-making difficult. This was a deviation from Bangladesh's usual plan of operating with spin in the middle and have Mustafizur and Rubel man the death overs.
Offspinner Mehidy Hasan managed just four overs, leaving Mahmudullah to complete the fifth bowler's quota. While Mahmudullah managed to dismiss Dinesh Karthik, Bangladesh couldn't quite maximise their frontline bowlers the way Mashrafe would have liked.
"If our offspinners bowled well, the scenario would've been so different." Mashrafe said. "Mustafiz and Rubel bowled so well that if we could have given them the ball from the 46th over, I think even 25 runs could have been defended.
"You would always back the spinners when you see the ball turning in the first innings. Mehidy has bowled well throughout the tournament. Mahmudullah was good in the last game. We needed to bring 10 overs from them, but we were struggling to do that. Apu (Nazmul Islam) could have bowled better. But you cannot blame the bowlers after setting 223 to win. I think all of you thought in the half-time that we won't be winning."
That they still managed to take the game into the final over pleased him, although the batting collapse left him bitterly disappointed. "Our boys should feel proud. I think we have to learn so many things," he said. "We are struggling somewhere or the other in these tournaments. Today we made a good start but couldn't go through.
"In the last few matches, we lost early wickets but managed to score 240-250. I think the bowlers did a good job in the tournament. We are proud but we have to move forward. Not having Shakib [Al Hasan] and Tamim [Iqbal] was a big blow, but I think boys have done a really good job."
Mashrafe was left to rue a patchy batting performance that saw them slip up after being 120 for 0 at one stage. Bangladesh went in with five proper bowlers, and opened the batting with Mehidy to strengthen their middle and lower order. This should have worked to their advantage after the kind of start they had, but a combination of outstanding fielding from India and poor shot selection from Bangladesh stopped them short of scoring 250.
"To be honest, we wanted a partnership when Riyad and Mushfiq were batting. We were 120 in the 21st over. If we had scored low-risk cricket for the next 14-15 overs, we could have added 60-70 runs for the loss of one wicket. Mushfiq couldn't execute well. The run-outs also hurt. Intent doesn't mean getting out playing big shots. You have to look after the batting after the good start. We should have scored 250-260 on this wicket."