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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 October 2018

Bangladesh 'haven't played our best cricket yet', Mushfiqur Rahim warns India ahead of Asia Cup final

Wicketkeeper-batsman confident his team can raise their game to finally win a title that eluded them in 2014 and 2016

4 Mushfiqur Rahim (Bangladesh, wicketkeeper) Faltered in the final when his team could have done with him, but he did more than anyone else to get them there, with 144 in the opener and 99 against Pakistan. AFP
4 Mushfiqur Rahim (Bangladesh, wicketkeeper) Faltered in the final when his team could have done with him, but he did more than anyone else to get them there, with 144 in the opener and 99 against Pakistan. AFP

Mushfiqur Rahim has warned Bangladesh's best has yet to come ahead of their Asia Cup final against India on Friday.

Mushfiqur hit a match-winning 99 against Pakistan in the final Super Four game of the tournament at Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

Even though the diminutive player missed out on what would have been the seventh century of his one-day international career, his 144-run partnership for the fourth wicket with Mohammed Mithun (60) helped Bangladesh to post a competitive 239 all out. It proved crucial as Pakistan managed just 202-9 in their allotted 50 overs.

However, Mushfiqur is mindful of the fact Bangladesh have had an up-and-down tournament.

They beat Sri Lanka in the opening match before being stunned by Afghanistan in the other Group B game. Then India crushed them in their first Super Four match. The Tigers, though, bounced back to beat the Afghans in a three-run win before seeing the back of Pakistan on Wednesday.

“We still haven’t played our best cricket yet," said Mushfiqur, who also scored a career-best, match-winning 144 against Sri Lanka in Dubai last week. "But the confidence is there. That’s what I feel."

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The 30-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman echoed all-rounder Mahmudullah's thoughts about the lack of runs at the top of the order.

“We are still struggling a bit in all three departments," he conceded. "The top order hasn’t fired for us. If the top order clicks, we can do something against India."

Mushfiqur is wary of the reigning champions given their recent run of form, but he is confident Bangladesh can finally take home the trophy - they lost to Pakistan and India in the 2012 and 2016 finals respectively - if only they focused on getting the simple things right.

"If we can put up a good score then we can put some pressure on them," he said. "After all, they are humans too and can do mistakes. So, if we can get a good start, we can pull it off."

As a senior player in the side, Mushfiqur has shouldered the team's batting in the absence of Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan. Opener Tamim was ruled out of the tournament after fracturing his hand against Sri Lanka, while all-rounder Shakib missed Wednesday's game after he complained of a fresh pain in an injured finger. He is also out of the final.

“I had to play a long innings [against Pakistan], but that’s what you expect from the experienced players," he said. "Those with experience should be able to perform in [at least] two of the three games they play.

“I think above all, playing as a team is most important. For me, I don’t want to throw my wicket away that easily."

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Read more:

Route to Asia Cup 2018 final: How India and Bangladesh reached second straight championship game

In pictures: Colourful supporters of Afghanistan and Bangladesh watch the Asia Cup in Abu Dhabi

Chitrabhanu Kadalayil: India look like title contenders again, but Asian cricket landscape changing

Paul Radley: After Asia Cup trip, Hong Kong cricket fans can look up to their own homegrown stars

Paul Radley: Dubai transformed into Dhaka Sports City as Bangladesh fans light up Asia Cup opener

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Bangladesh's Mohammed Mithun, left, and Mushfiqur Rahim have stitched together two match-winning partnerships at the Asia Cup. AP Photo
Bangladesh's Mohammed Mithun, left, and Mushfiqur Rahim have stitched together two match-winning partnerships at the Asia Cup. AP Photo

Mushfiqur is happy to team up with Mithun once again to dig themselves out of a crisis. The pair also put on a crucial stand worth 131 runs against Sri Lanka.

“Mithun batted really well [on Wednesday]. It’s not the first time he came in and supported me," he said. "For a young cricketer [Mithun is 27 years old], he seems to be handling the pressure well.

“The youngsters in the team are learning quickly," he added, "and once they come out with a good knock or good bowling spell, it will give them the confidence."

On Wednesday, Bangladesh bowled brilliantly to defend a total that was - in Mushfiqur's words - "not a winning one", and he hopes they can come good again on Friday.