Much like Pakistan; in recent years Bangladesh have also started to make a name for themselves in multi-team events. When the world is watching, they tend to lift their game significantly. For any cricket enthusiast, perhaps, the most heartening aspect of Bangladesh cricket is the passion and emotion which can be evident in their game. When the Tigers are on song, it is a true spectacle to watch them play and the inaugural match of the 14th edition of the Asia Cup was one such occasion.
A 137-run victory over their newly-made arch-rival Sri Lanka, is perhaps the best possible way Bangladesh could have started their Asia Cup campaign. Statistically, this is their biggest win in terms of victory margin outside home. Defending 261, they bowled out Sri Lanka for just 124 – from the scoresheet, it seems like a thoroughly dominating show by their bowlers. However, those who have followed that game should understand that the triumph is inspired by the heroics of two senior batsmen – Mushfiqur Rahim, who, amid all batting chaos, anchored the innings and scored a sublime 144 and Tamim Iqbal, who walked out to bat with one hand two hours after doctors almost ruled him out of the tournament due to a fractured left wrist.
These days often players talk about adding ‘intent’ to their game. Often, this particular word is being interpreted and misunderstood in different ways. On Saturday, Tamim and Mushfiqur actually demonstrated what playing with intent is all about. The courage and commitment they showed on the field, lifted the spirits of the entire unit and rest as they say, is history.
Winning the toss and batting first, Bangladesh were effectively 3 for 3 in the second over when Tamim had to retire-hurt after being struck on the wrist by Suranga Lakmal. At that point, when the 35-year old comeback man Lasith Malinga was breathing fire from the other end, it seemed we are heading towards yet another Bangladeshi batting collapse.
But it was the calm, composed and mature batsmanship of Mushfiqur, in particular, which did not let Sri Lanka take any further advantage of the situation. The former skipper along with youngster Mohammad Mithun added 131 runs for the third wicket to steady the ship. Having been around for more than a decade at the international circuit, Mushfiqur understood that Malinga was the prime threat at that time. So, he just played him out, without taking much risk. At the end of first 10 overs, Bangladesh just had 24 on the board.
The Sri Lankans knew that one more wicket there could have exposed the middle-order. Hence, they tried to lure the batsmen into playing those expensive shots. But with his experience and solidity, Mushfiqur did not let that happen.
Nevertheless, as the innings progressed, he increased his strike-rate, without much difficulties. In the initial half of his knock, Mushfiqur seemed to have a special liking towards Sri Lanka’s finger-spinners. He used his feet brilliantly to dominate them.
In the middle-overs, Bangladesh had yet another collapse when Mithun, Mahmudullah and Mosaddek Hossain go out in quick succession. But at the other end Mushfiqur did not lose his shape. He batted aptly with the tail and kept the scoreboard ticking, while reaching his sixth ODI ton in the 44th over. But with just 209 runs on the board, Mushfiqur knew the job was not yet done.
However, despite his best efforts, Bangladesh soon found themselves nine down for just 227 in the 47th over.
Then came that phase, which completely changed the course of the match.
Much to the surprise of many, holding the bat with his right hand, Tamim joined Mushfiqur at the crease to help his team utilise the last 25 balls of the innings.
“It was Tamim’s personal decision,” revealed Bangladesh skipper Mashrafe Mortaza in his post-match press conference. “Batting with a fractured hand can be career-threatening. But he decided to go there and help out the team to add some vital runs towards the end – a decision which inspired each and everyone in the dressing room.”
During his re-appearance at the crease, Tamim might just face one delivery but it certainly encouraged Mushfiqur to go for the onslaught, which he did quite effective. For the final wicket, the duo added vital 32 runs, thanks to some breathtaking strokeplay by the centurion. Finally, in the 50th over, when he got out for 144 (a record 55.17% of his team total score) while trying to hit the third consecutive six off Thisara Perera, Bangladesh already had a competitive score on the board.
Under that extreme heat of Dubai, those extra 30-40 runs hit the Sri Lankans psychologically and they never recovered from there.