Team Bangladesh celebrate with ACC Men's U19 Asia Cup 2023 trophy during the post match presentation ceremony at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Sunday. Image Credit: Courtesy: ACC

Dubai: Bangladesh opener Ashiqur Rahman Shibli aims to replicate his idol Indian superstar cricketer Virat Kohli’s aggression and consistency. It’s his consistency that ended UAE’s dream in the Asia Cup final at the Dubai International Stadium on Sunday.

Shibli withstood a difficult period early in the game to score his second century of the tournament and take his team to a huge total of 282 for eight. The daunting target, the pressure of the final, searing Bangladesh pacers and the sizeable crowd watching the final must have played on the minds of the UAE batters, who could not get going in their innings to be dismissed for a paltry 87.

The UAE pacers, especially Omid Rehman, were breathing fire on a pitch that had plenty of assistance to the pacers. The right-hander had to survive that hostile spell before he could unleash his array of shots to score 129 and put on two crucial partnerships with Chowdhur Mohammed Rizwan and Ariful Islam.

“I just play the ball on merit, don’t think too much on anything else. UAE pacers bowled very well early and I was waiting for them to finish their spell so that I could play the spinners better. Once the shine on the ball wore off, it became very easy to bat,” said Shibli. “My hero is Kohli. I like his aggression and his consistency. I like to play like him,” he added.

The 18-year-old showed great maturity during his unbeaten 116 against Sri Lanka. The century followed two half-centuries against UAE in the opener and an unbeaten 55 against Japan. His efforts in the continental championship earned him the Player of the final, player of the series awards.

Ashiqur Rahman Shibli of Bangladesh celebrates his hundred during the final against UAE in Dubai on Sunday. Image Credit: ACC

Test of character

A final is a test of character and with so much at stake, it is not easy to overcome the nerves and perform at the top of the game. Bangladesh did exactly that against hosts UAE, who might have come short in the final. But the young turks can leave with their heads held high for their stunning performance in the continental championship, where they defeated Sri Lanka and Pakistan. It shows that the UAE youngsters are on the right path towards achieving greater success in the near future.

On a day for left-arm pacers, Australia’s Mitchell Starc claiming three wickets against Pakistan in the first Test, India’s Arshdeep Singh claiming a five-wicket haul against South Africa in the first One-Day International, the young Maruf Mridha didn’t want to be left out as he produced a stunning spell to claim three wickets in the final.

Bangladesh’s superior pace bowling has been their hallmark of their unbeaten run in this tournament. The pace trio of Mridha, Iqbal Hossain Emon and Rohanat Doullah Borson, caused a major havoc during the Tigers’ win against the world U19 champions India in the semi-finals and it is no wonder that they broke the UAE batting by picking wickets at regular intervals.

Change in strategy

Bangladesh had changed their strategy in the semi-finals against India, where from playing two pacers, they had opted for a three-man pace attack. That move got the results immediately and they followed the same formula against the UAE in final.

Bangladesh coach Stuart Law put things in perspective when he spoke about the logic behind the three-man pace attack.

“Most teams at this level struggle against quality fast bowling. We have three quality fast bowlers and we proved that in the last two games when we beat India in the semi-final and now the UAE. So we knew if we’d put them under pressure on a good pitch with nearly 300 on the board, we would able to win this game. The Dubai International Stadium is one of the best stadiums in the world, so it was a nice fitting way to finish the tournament,” said the former Australian all-rounder.

More on Asia Cup U19

Bangladesh have been making a steady progress, winning against some big names like Pakistan but not able to beat England and South Africa. Law says that the team had identified some areas of improvement, that bore the results in the Asia Cup.

“Initially, the boys weren’t at a level that probably wasn’t acceptable for the standard that we wanted to create. Credit to the boys and the support staff who have really stuck with these guys and put some really good cricket knowledge into them. Then to come away from a couple of tournaments, won in UAE in February-March and did pretty well in Pakistan, but bit patchy. But we identified a few areas we need to improve on and that was our first 10 overs when we batted and in this tournament we have got it right,” added the 55-year-old.

UAE skipper Aayan Afzal Khan had been carrying the team with three consecutive player of the match awards, but despite the setback the 19-year-old all-rounder was proud of the team’s effort in the tournament. “It was a bad for us. We started well and got an early wicket, but they played well and got 280-plus, so it was hard to chase such a huge target. Everyone in this team has so much talent and I am sure they will soon be able to achieve great results for the UAE senior team. I am proud of this team and cherish the two wins against Sri Lanka and Pakistan,” Aayan said.