Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza heaped praise on his teammates after they stunned Pakistan in the virtual semi-final of Asia Cup 2018 in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, September 26.
The 34-year-old skipper was seemingly pumped up about the opportunity to take on heavyweights India in a repeat of the 2016 Asia Cup final. He insisted Bangladesh will once again show the strength of character and play hard in what will be their third final at the continental tournament in six years.
Mortaza's men came up with all-round effort, stunning the Men in Green by 37 runs and dashing the hopes of final between the arch-rivals of world cricket — India and Pakistan.
Bangladesh though didn't get off to a good start after winning the toss as comeback man Junaid Khan and young Shaheen Afridi ran through the top-order.
However, wicketkeeper-batsman Mushfiqur Rahim used all his experience and stitched a match-winning 144-run stand with Mohammad Mithun to steer his team out of danger.
Rahim was unfortunate to get out on 99 but the former captain helped Bangladesh reach an above-par total on a sluggish Abu Dhabi wicket. Mithun's 60 was equally important as there was very little contribution from the other batsmen.
Mustafizur Rahman shone with the ball as he picked up four wickets to derail Pakistan's chase. Captain Mortaza, who took a stunner to dismiss in-form Shoaib Malik, led from the front as Bangladesh were brilliant on the field as well.
Imam-ul-Haq top-scored for Pakistan with a well-paced 83 but it wasn't enough as Bangladesh kept picking wickets at regular intervals to eventually land the knockout blow.
India is a serious side: Mortaza
"The bowlers have done a good job. Mushy [Mushfiqur] batted so well and Mithun also batted well. In the end, the bowlers are brilliant. We are proud of our fielding today. We haven't seen such quality in a long time. Hopefully, we will continue our fielding like this," Mortaza said.
"We all know that India is a serious side and the number one side the world. We will be missing Shakib [Al Hasan] and Tamim [Iqbal] but the boys have shown character and one match to go, and hopefully, the boys will play hard.
"We still have to improve in our batting and bowling in some parts."
As Mortaza pointed out, the absence of Shakib and Tamim may play a big part in Friday's big final against the high-flying Indian team. However, Bangladesh have often punched above their weight and will be hoping to do so once again in Dubai.
India, on the other hand, will be heading into the final on the back of two days' rest. They had rested five players, including captain Rohit Sharma and vice-captain Shikhar Dhawan, for their final Super Four match against Afghanistan that ended in a tie.
India also have a few batting concerns to address as their middle order hasn't fired at all in the ongoing tournament. The absence of top-ranked all-rounder Shakib though should give the Men in Blue a bit of breather in the middle overs.