Bangladesh Under 19 skipper Akbar Ali had made a bold statement before the ICC Under 19 World Cup in South Africa kicked off. He said that Bangladesh could go on to win the World Cup.
And now, Bangladesh are in the final of the World Cup. Akbar and his team are now just one game apart from the holy grail of age level. After they managed to beat New Zealand comprehensively in the semi-final at Potchefstroom by six wickets, Bangladesh created history. Bangladesh's best-ever record in the grandest stage of age level was being third on home soil in 2016.
But the young Tigers managed to eclipse that as they cruised past New Zealand. The hero of the match was Mahmudul Hasan Joy with his hundred, but the bowlers must be given the due credit too. Because they were the ones who restricted New Zealand to a subpar total of 211, which the youngsters surpassed with ease.
The rain had struck Potchefstroom on the morning of the match and there was apparent moisture on the pitch. Taking that into the calculation, Bangladesh skipper Akbar decided to field first. And with the new ball in hand, Bangladesh seamer Shoriful Islam reigned fire on the New Zealand opening batsman. But off-spinner Shamim Hossain was the first to nick off a wicket as Rhys Mariu handed Tanzid a catch at slip.
Runs proved to be scarce for the young Blackcaps batsmen as they only managed to notch up 26 in the powerplay and by the 26th over, they were four down. But a 67-run stand between Nicholas Lidstone and Beckham Wheeler-Greenall steadied their ship. But Bangladeshi bowlers once again tightened their grip on the young Oceanians and their hunt for a fighting total was lost in the middle.
But still, Wheeler-Greenall managed to take them to 211-8 as he stayed unbeaten on 75. He and Ashok Adithy took 19 off Shariful's last over but that did not flourish the bowler's performance on the day as he had picked up three wickets and was the pick of the Bangladeshi bowlers.
Chasing a tricky total of 212, Bangladesh were struck with an early blow. Tanzid Hasan Tamim, who hit a marvellous 80 in the quarter-final against hosts South Africa, was gone in the sixth over for only 3.
A sense of chill ran through Bangladesh's spine when their other opener, Parvez Hossain Emon was also sent back within the powerplay for 14.
But from then on, Joy and Towhid Hridoy put on a stand. Their 68-run partnership not only steadied the ship for Bangladesh, but also kept the young Tigers on par with the asking rate.
Their partnership was broken by the leg-spinner Adithya when Hridoy was stumped for 40. The chill was looking for a way to get back in Bangladesh's spine, but Shahadat Hossain and Joyensured that it did not.
They put up a brilliant stand where Joy played shots all around the park to gradually take Bangladesh's ship to victory. Shahadat took a bit of time to settle in the crease, but that did not matter because Joymanaged to cope up with the run rate.
And in the 43rd over, Joylaunched New Zealand skipper Jesse Tashkoff with a slog sweep to reach his hundred off 126 deliveries. Joy was caught and bowled by Tashkoff in the very next delivery, but his job here was done as when he was out, Bangladesh only required 11 off 42 deliveries.
Shahadat was probably in a hurry to ensure the final as he hit two boundaries off Kristian Clarke in the very next over to take Bangladesh only a run away from sealing a historic win. And in the next over's first delivery, Shamim hit Tashkoff down the ground to take them to the final, one more step closer to achieving what their captain stated.
Bangladesh will take on India in the final at the same venue on February 9 where they will look forward to clinch a maiden title.