Mustafizur Rahman snatched a victory from the jaw of defeat as Bangladesh ended their sorry tale against Afghanistan to eke out a three-run win and stay in hunt for a place in the Asia Cup final in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
Mustafiz gave away just four runs in the thrilling final over when Afghanistan needed eight runs with at least one set batsman, Samiullah Shenwari, at the crease.
Mustafiz conceded two runs in the first ball but took the wicket of Rashid Khan in the next delivery to give Bangladesh a faint hope before two leg-byes in next three balls made it four needing from the last ball for Afghanistan.
The left-arm pacer bowled an angular short of length delivery, which Shenwari missed completely, handing Bangladesh the narrow win.
Shenwari (23 not out) took the game close, putting 46-run with Mohammad Nabi (38) for the sixth wicket despite Bangladesh making some late breakthroughs thanks to skipper Mashrafee bin Murtaza (2-62).
The Tigers bowled extremely tight at the start of their innings after half-centuries from Mahmudullah and Imrul Kayes took them to 249-7 in their 50 overs.
An early strike by Mustafiz and a run out helped Bangladesh reduce Afghanistan to 26-2 but Mohammad Shahzad, who was benefited by drop catch of Mohammad Mithun on nine, brought his side back on track with 53 off 81 balls.
In-form batsman Hasmatullah Shahidi then struck 71 – his third consecutive fifty in the tournament – and forged a 78-run fourth wicket stand with skipper Asghar Afghan to keep them in the hunt.
Mashrafee, who became first Bangladeshi to complete 250 wickets in ODIs during the game, dismissed Afghan for 39 to break the partnership but Afghanistan never gave up thanks to some cameos from their lower-middle batsmen.
Unlike Afghanistan, Bangladesh, who won the toss and opted to bat first, progressed in a cumbersome way with the first two wickets falling for 18 runs.
Nazmul Hossain demonstrated yet another failure making just six runs while Mohammad Mithun wasted his promotion at one-down position having left for just one.
Liton Das could show some promise finally after three successive failures as he made 41 off 43 balls to help Bangladesh revive the innings.
Rashid removed Liton to send a shiver of cold in Bangladesh dressing room, but without waiting for him to make a significant damage, the Tigers fell prey to two consecutive run outs.
Sakib al Hasan was run out without scoring in the second ball he faced and Mushfiq, who became only third Bangladeshi to complete 5,000 runs in one-day international, followed him soon with 33.
When Bangladesh started staring at the danger of getting folded for yet another embarrassing total Mahmudllah began his fightback with Imrul, who was flown in UAE only on Saturday.
Mahmudllah kept the scoreboard rolling with his prolific batting while Imrul, who came to bat in an unusual position of number six, happily played the role of an anchor.
The duo put 128 runs in their sixth wicket stand to break a 19-year old Bangladesh record, which provided the cornerstone for a fighting total.
Mahmudullah was dismissed for 74 off 81 balls, missing a deserving century but Imrul stayed unbeaten on 72 off 89 balls to ensure bowlers got something to defend.
Bangladesh will face Pakistan in their next match on Wednesday.
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