New Delhi: The Indian team will look to make it seven out of seven titles when they lock horns against Bangladesh in the final of the Women's Asia Cup T20 in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.
India have been the most successful team in the history of the competition, winning all six titles since the tournament's inception in 2004. While for Bangladesh, this will be their maiden appearance in the final.
The first four editions of the tournament were One-Day Internationals and were played in Sri Lanka (2004), Pakistan (2005), India (2006) and Sri Lanka (2008) respectively. While the last two editions were T20Is and were played in China (2012) and 2016 (Thailand) respectively — with Indian emerging out as winners in all of them.
2004: India beat Sri Lanka in 5-match series in a two-team tournament
2005: India beat Sri Lanka by 97 runs in the final
2006: India beat Sri Lanka by 8 wickets in the final
2008: India beat Sri Lanka by 177 runs in the final
2012: India beat Pakistan by 19 runs in the final
2016: India beat Pakistan by 17 runs in the final
The Indian eves will now look to reach the 'seventh heaven' by beating the surprise package of the tournament Bangladesh, who have consistently punched above their weight to enter the final by finishing second in the group, ahead of the likes of Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
However, Harmanpreet and Co cannot commit the mistake of taking Bangladesh lightly as Salma and her bunch of giant-slayers have shown in the tournament that on their day, they are more than capable of beating anyone. In the ninth match of the tournament, Bangladesh scripted history as they thrashed India by 7 wickets and registered their first ever win over their Indian counterparts, across any format of the game.
Following this historic win, Bangladesh star Rumana Ahmed told ESPNcricinfo: "The dream has always been to come close to beating a team like India. That we've beaten them is a reality. When we arrived at the team hotel, the Pakistan players congratulated us in the lobby. We beat them the other day, and today they were congratulating us for beating India."
This victory in the group stage went a long way in helping Bangladesh enter the final, however, form and previous records both state that India are outright favourites to lift the cup once again over their less-illustrious rivals.
India sealed a spot in the title clash by comprehensively beating arch-rivals Pakistan by seven wickets in the virtual semi-finals on Saturday. Apart from the minor blip the players suffered against Bangladesh — which was their first ever loss in Asia Cup history — the Indian stars have played good consistent cricket right throughout the course of the tournament.
Match 1 - India beat Malaysia by 142 runs
Match 5 - India beat Thailand by 66 runs
Match 9 - Bangladesh beat India by 7 wickets
Match 12 - India beat Sri Lanka by 7 wickets
Match 13 - India beat Pakistan by 7 wickets
Harmanpreet Kaur is the highest run-scorer of the tournament, having scored 100 runs in 3 innings. While Smriti Mandhana and Mithali Raj have also chipped in with runs when the team has needed them. (Mithali slammed 97* in the first match of the tournament against Malaysia — matches against whom the ICC recognises as Minor League matches and not T20Is).
Moving onto the bowling department, Ekta Bist's spin is ruling the roost in Kuala Lumpur as her three-wicket performance helped her win the player of the match against Pakistan in the virtual semi-final, her third on the trot in the tournament. Ekta is currently sitting pretty at the third spot in the list of most number of wickets taken in the tournament. Meanwhile, Poonam
Yadav has also bowled well for the ‘Women in Blue’ as she has managed to pick up one wicket each in the three matches that she has played thus far.
Both India and Bangladesh finished with 8 points in five matches to seal their respective places in the final of the competition. However, the gulf in class in very apparent and that is something that the players recognise too.
"It hurts when you have to wait for your chances because you're the ninth-ranked team. Teams like India, Pakistan - they're in the top eight and play (ICC Women's Championship) matches all around the year. It's like you're made to feel you're not good enough, but I hope this goes some way towards changing that perception," Rumana said.
Although, Bangladesh will be no push-overs in this David versus Goliath clash, the onus will be on them to show the world that the historical victory that they scripted against the mighty Indians few day ago was no fluke.
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