India were billed firm favourites coming into the final and were primed to lift a seventh Asia Cup title. They did manage to do that in the end but not before being pushed right to the brink by an indefatigable Bangladesh outfit at Dubai International Stadium on Friday.
A tournament which has seen the pendulum swing from one direction to another got a fitting finish. Bangladesh fought valiantly but in the end, Kedar Jadhav, who was battling with a hamstring injury, got India through to a three-wicket win off the last delivery.
After bowling out Bangladesh for 222, India chased down the target with useful contributions from all their batsmen. An ecstatic Rohit Sharma said he was proud of the way his team handled the pressure with the game getting tight in the end.
"We played some good cricket through the tournament and this is the reward for hard work," said Rohit after the match. "We've put in a complete performance. We dominated the entire tournament and this is the reward.
"Games like these can happen, and I've been part of such encounters before. But credit to the boys out there to handle the pressure towards the end. And to cross the finishing line was a great effort."
Sent into bat, Bangladesh were off to a blazing start with Liton Das and Mehidy Hasan adding 120 runs for the opening wicket. Liton, who had an average of 14.06 with a top-score of 41 in ODIs before coming into the final couldn't have chosen a better occasion to score his maiden international century. He came out all guns blazing and set up the Bangladesh innings in grand fashion with a 117-ball 121.
However, like they have all tournament, the spinners came to India's rescue. Kuldeep Yadav picked up three wickets, while Jadhav chipped in with two as Bangladesh collapsed from 120 without loss to 222 all out in 48.3 overs. Rohit heaped praise on his spinners while admitting the Bangladeshi batsmen had India under pressure early on.
"Bangladesh batted brilliantly, put us under pressure early. But we knew that we could get back when the ball becomes older," said Rohit. "It was important to keep the pressure building, and it was something we did well.
"With a team so good, the captain always looks good. But it's not easy without the support of the ten other players, so credit to them."
The architects of the victory were Kuldeep and Jadhav who turned the game around with the ball first and then as it turned out with India needing 9 off 11 and eventually six in the last over pulled off a win off the last ball of the innings.
Jadhav, who had to retire-hurt at the end of the 38th over, came back and ensured India got over the line.
"I have been in this situation few months before as well, I knew the field would come in if I took it to the last ball and I just tried to do that," said Jadhav. "I knew we can win if we went to the last ball."
Kuldeep also praised his senior partner, Jadhav for keeping his composure while the heat was on.
"He just asked me to back myself. He was running well too, and thanks to him we've won," he said. "The wicket was good to bat on today, as compared to the last game. Bit slower, but as long as you play it tends to get better. I've scored a lot of runs in first-class cricket, so I'll call myself a bowling allrounder."
For Bangladesh, on the other hand, it turned out to be a so-near-yet-so-far situation yet again. Despite being bowled out in 48.3 overs, the bowlers came out and led by their captain Mashrafe Mortaza gave their hearts out in defending the total.
A dejected Mortaza said that he was proud of the way his side fought, but admitted that the batting let them down.
"We gave fight till the last ball, but I think we made a lot of mistakes during batting," said Mortaza. "I think if you look at our bowling this tournament each time we have posted more than 240, we have won the matches and that is what I was asking our batsmen to do."
While Liton Das was named Man of the Match for his century, Shikhar Dhawan was named Man of the Series after finishing of the Asia Cup as the highest run-getter with 342 runs in five games at 68.40. The dashing opener said that England tour where he could not score too many runs helped him mature as a cricketer.
"I really enjoyed this tournament, it was a fantastic tournament, a fantastic final, really enjoyed how I batted and I would really like to go the same way in the coming matches as well," said Dhawan. "The England tour has really helped me get more mature. I was playing much more calmly in this tournament and I would like to carry on with the same elegance and at the same time, the consistency."
Dhawan also heaped praise on Rohit, his opening batting partner, who finished as the second-highest run-scorer with 317 runs in five games.
"We know each other's game very well and his consistency at the top matters a lot for me. He also has had a great Asia Cup and I would like to congratulate him as well," said Dhawan on Rohit.
The Asia Cup win was especially sweet for India as it comes after the 4-1 drubbing they received at the hands of England in the five-match series recently. Ravi Shastri, the head coach, said that he was extremely proud of the way India bounced back after spending two-and-a-half months in England and in particular pointed out the way they fielded in the oppressive Dubai heat.
"People may have thought that after two and a half months, the guys would be flat. And they were against Hong Kong, but they've pulled themselves up well," said Shastri. "The ability to keep taking wickets in the middle is the real positive sign.
"But the biggest plus is the fielding. Game after game, we saved around 25-30 runs. And it's heartening under such difficult conditions. Rohit looked in control as captain, even when the going got tough. He did well to keep Bangladesh down to 223, which was brilliant."