Sri Lanka players celebrate after their victory over Bangladesh in Asia Cup, in Dubai on Thursday. AP
Mohammad Abdullah, Senior Sports Reporter
As an old adage goes, the luck favours the brave so was it evident, when Kusal Mendis rode his luck to steer Sri Lanka to an improbable victory against a butter-fingered Bangladesh in a topsy-turvy Asia Cup match in Dubai on Thursday.
Bangladesh facilitated Lanka in their chase as they dropped catches, missed run out chances and conceded 17 extras, four of them being the no-balls, which is succeeded by a free-hit.
Mendis got four reprieves. He was first dropped by Mushfiqur when on two. He capitalized on that chance and added another 27 runs before being caught on 29 off Afif but the TV replays showed it was an illegal delivery.
After adding just two runs to his personal score, Mendis holed out to Mushfiqur, but Bangladesh did not ask for review. He also survived a run out on 45 as the ball missed the stumps by a flicker when Mendis was not even in the frame. But he kept the fight on.
Though Mendis got out when Lanka still needed 45 runs, but he had given them the hope of winning. After his dismissal, Dasun Shanaka took over and took the game as deep he could.
Chamika Karunaratne and Asitha Fernando brought the equation down to eight needed off the last over. Fernando held his nerve and hit a boundary and took a couple off a no-ball to take them over the line after Maheesh Theekshana had taken a leg-bye off the first ball of the last over.
With the victory, the hosts also booked their berth in the Super 4 of the tournament. After being set a target of 184, Lanka were written off by the most of the experts and fans alike, seeing their performance against Afghanistan.
But Lanka had different plans. They started the chase on a positive note as the openers Pathun Nissanka and Mendis collected 45 runs in 5 overs. Â
Ebadot Hossain, who came into the side in place of Saifudddin, brought some respite to the Bangladesh camp by getting rid of Nissanka, giving Bangladesh the first break through.
Ebadot struck twice in quick succession to get rid of Nissanka and Charith Asalanka in the space of three deliveries, pushing Lanka on the back foot. In his next over, he had Danushka Gunathilaka caught by Taskin Ahmed as Lanka were reduced to 67/3 from 45/0.
Taskin Ahmed also sprang into action and sent back Bhanuka Rajapaksa as Lanka were tottering on 77/4. But Shanaka and Mendis were holding the fort and refused to give up. They added 54 runs for the fourth wicket to keep the chase alive.
Earlier, once again the lower order came to the rescue of Bangladesh after the top-order batsmen failed to live up to their reputation except a fighting 26-ball 38 by opener Mehidy Hasan Miraz.
Bangladesh dropped both the openers Mohammad Naim and Anamul Haque and brought in Sabbir Rahman and Mehidy Hasan Miraz to try out the new opening combination.
Their start was far from perfect but several notches better than from that of the last match against Afghanistan. A 19-run opening partnership gave them the impetus to build on their innings.
Sabbir failed to exploit the chance but Miraz grabbed the opportunity with both hands. He kept the score board ticking with singles and doubles, hitting occasional boundaries to maintain the run rate. He looked set to score first fifty for Bangladesh in the tournament but Hasranga De Silva rattled his stumps to give second jolt to the Tigers.
Bangladesh batsmen failed to convert their starts and kept on losing the wicket at regular intervals. Sabbir could manage just 5 while a returning Mushfiqur once again disappointed with the bat and he was caught behind the wickets by Mendis off Karunaratne as Bangladesh lost their third wicket with 63 runs on the board.
Shakib looked set for a big innings after getting off to an anxious start but he failed to read a Theekshana-delivery right which blew away his stumps, reducing Bangladesh to 87-4 in 10.3 overs.
Newly-appointed vice captain Afif Hossain took the charge in his hands and knuckled down to stitch the faltering innings. Everybody knew the stakes were high so was the pressure.
But Afif held his nerves and led the Bangladesh charge with Mahmudullah as the duo added 57 runs for the fifth wicket in just five overs, taking the score to 144/5 before the former was caught by De Silva off Madhushanka.
With around four overs still left and last-match hero Mosaddek Hossain walking on the pitch some firework was expected. And Mosaddek did not disappoint his fans as he belted 9-ball 24 to spur the run rate with the help of four boundaries.
He was trapped in front of wickets before Mahmudullah fell prey to De silva. But the damage was done as Bangladesh posted a fighting total of 183/7.