Mirpur: Bangladesh won another home ODI series against a higher-ranked team by believing in their abilities. They batted first after winning the toss in Mirpur where, in late October, dew is already a major factor, particularly for the finger spinners. They used four of those in their chosen conditions, the most effective of whom opened the bowling at one end. Their injury prone fast bowler also came through. They won the second match with unconventional, yet useful methods.
Mushfiqur Rahim showed a lot of confidence in his main spinners, Sohag Gazi and Abdur Razzak, in deciding to bat first. Both bowled accurately, didn’t let the wet ball be too much of a distraction and ensured they remained calm after every big hit. The wicket of Ross Taylor was a good example of how much Gazi has progressed as an international cricketer, and how quickly he learns.
Taylor had smashed him for a six, and like the first game on Tuesday, it would have been easy for Gazi to continue firing them in as a defensive ploy, hoping to restrict the batsman to ground strokes. This time he tossed it up outside the off stump, and Taylor chipped it down long-on’s throat. He was lucky to pick up James Neesham’s wicket with a short ball, but it was the build-up that often gets bowlers wickets. He also ended Anton Devcich’s misery (he scored 19 off 44 balls) with an easy caught and bowled chance and a few words.
Razzak dismissed Grant Elliott, the highest-scorer from the first match, with a flattish delivery that went straight, the batsman caught plumb in front. Razzak may have contributed only one wicket, but his discipline and leadership skills have been recently praised by the Bangladesh management.
Mushfiqur’s gamble with Mominul Haque also paid off, his two wickets a bonus for the team. These series wins are important for Bangladesh’s growth as they have done it without their main allrounder, Shakib Al Hasan. He was also out of the squad with injury when they won 3-2 last year against West Indies in the ODI series.
The team should be most pleased with Mashrafe Mortaza’s performance over the two games. He is known for missing more international matches than playing during his 12-year career but this latest comeback has begun very well.
He was the quiet performer in the first game, making sure his transition from injury to rehabilitation to match fitness was smooth. His three-wicket haul on Thursday was his first since April 2011, and his best bowling figures since July 2010. His first spell kept the two left-handed New Zealand openers on tenterhooks, and he soon accounted for the miserably out of form Hamish Rutherford. He continued to be accurate, but when he gave width to Corey Anderson in his second spell, the edge was snapped up by a diving Mushfiqur.
When you have a player with a history of major injuries and one who has to resettle almost every year, exiting suddenly after a comeback, it has two different effects in a team. Mortaza and his team-mates have experienced both, like when he felt unwelcome more three years ago when he made a comeback. But Mushfiqur’s catch said that the team wanted to do something for their rickety warrior.
Bangladesh have their concerns too. Like their counterparts, the Bangladesh batsmen struggled to convert good starts into big scores, were poor in the batting Powerplay and didn’t have the flourish in the end overs. They took a chance by handing Shamsur Rahman a debut in such a crucial match. The right-handed batsman didn’t have the best of starts but it was progressive thinking to break a winning combination, knowing fully well how the public and media would react if Shamsur failed like Anamul Haque.
Mominul, Tamim Iqbal and the rest of the batsmen all flattered to deceive, as they didn’t bat for long or put together a big stand. Even during their problematic phase, at 173 for 6 in the 39th over, two batsmen stood up. Gazi and Mahmudullah added 48 precious runs that got them past the 200-run mark.
Bangladesh have moved on from a one-man show to a team that has a new performer on a daily basis. Someone or the other stands up. Mominul and Gazi did so in the Chittagong Test while in Mirpur, Tamim batted out of his comfort zone to guide his team to safety. Rubel Hossain did it on Tuesday with his best performance in international cricket. Today it was Mortaza, Gazi, Tamim and Mominul.
There was a lap of honour at the end of the game, with the players’ families converging in the field, and a majority of the crowd that stayed back. The word out was that the Bangladesh players don’t celebrate in the dressing-room as much these days. But one can imagine that the players nowadays toast each other’s success, rather than one man’s.