Just before the start of their much-awaited ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 campaign, Bangladesh have given themselves a huge confidence booster by clinching their maiden multi-team ODI tournament.
On Friday in Dublin, Mashrafe Mortaza's men outperformed the West Indies in a rain-affected tri-series final to be crowned as an unbeaten champion in the competition, in which the hosts Ireland were the third team.
Considering the quality of the two opponents Bangladesh had faced in this series, it was crystal clear that the Tigers were by far the most superior team in the tournament. And with their domination throughout the tournament, Mortaza's men have certainty justified the tag of "favourites".
During the four games they played in this competition (three of those were against the Windies), Bangladesh hardly allowed their opponents any room for improvement. On each occasion, they were pretty impressive with their all-round show, which comes as a massive plus point for this team before crossing the Irish sea to feature at the pinnacle cricketing event–the Cricket World Cup.
Coming into this tri-series, which was nothing but a preparatory event for Bangladesh before their upcoming challenge in the United Kingdom, there were some concerns, starting from the lack of experience in the bowling department to finding a settled opening partner of Tamim Iqbal.
Furthermore, there were doubts surrounding the effectiveness of their spinners on the flat batting pitches in this part of the world.
However, during their campaign in Ireland, the think-tank addressed these gray areas through collective approach and proper execution on the field. And in the end one needs to admit that Bangladesh have successfully cleared most of their doubts.
For instance, let's highlight the performances of their bowling attack, which is considered as the weak link of this World Cup-bound Bangladesh team.
In this tri-series, skipper Mortaza led Bangladesh’s pace department from the front with six scalps in four matches with an impressive economy rate of 5.41. On those true batting surfaces, he took the new ball and not only kept things tight in the powerplay, the 35-year-old medium pacer got important breakthroughs as well. In the two league games against the West Indies, when Bangladesh restricted them to below-par 247 and 261, Mortaza got 3 for 60 and 3 for 49 respectively.
Also, Mustafizur Rahman, the other premier pacer looked in good rhythm and got a four-for in one of the matches against the boys from the Caribbean. Even in the death overs, his yorkers were right on the mark on most occasions. The two youngsters Mohammad Saifuddin and Abu Jayed seemed impressive as well, whenever they got the chance. In fact, in the game against Ireland, Jayed even took a five-for, whereas with an economy rate of 4.95 after three matches, Saifuddin ended the series as Bangladesh's most economical fast bowler.
In the spin department, Mehidy Hasan was the star. Despite any help from the surface, the young off-break bowler bowled stump to stump and kept the batsmen at bay. In Shakib Al Hasan's absence, he stood up and took responsibility and finished the tri-series with an economy rate of 4.28.
Following this performance, the think-tank will face a healthy headache in the World Cup, whenever they look to play just one spinner and Shakib is available for selection. While Shakib is available for selection, it will also be very hard to leave Mehidy out of the playing XI.
Overall, the performance of this bowling attack was beyond expectations in Ireland and it has provided the team management a huge sigh of relief.
From the batting point of view, Soumya Sarkar has all but secured his place as a first-choice opener in Bangladesh's XI for the World Cup. The left-hander has literally now forced his way in with three dominating half-centuries in as many matches he played in the tournament. Sarkar had gone through a massive bad patch in the recent years. So, his return to top form just before the mega event is a huge positive for Bangladesh's gameplan.
Tamim too utilised these games to have a decent batting practice. He shared two 100 and two 50-run opening stands across four matches with Soumya Sarkar. Shakib, the other senior pro, showcased a few all-round efforts before being ruled out of the final due to a side-strain. In the three games, he played, the left-hander batted at the No.3 position and registered scores of 61*, 29 and 50*.
Interestingly, the Bangladesh team management straightaway asked Sarkar to bat at the top, right from the first game of the series ahead of Liton Das, who had opened the innings for them in the past few competitions. This time, he featured in only a single game – against Ireland where he scored 76 runs from 67 balls. However, in the final, Sarkar was once again preferred ahead of of him.
On every occasion of this tri-series, Bangladesh were chasing totals and in the league stage they successfully overhauled the targets of 262, 248 and 293 without any fuss whatsoever – by eight, five and six wickets respectively. Even, in the tournament decider, the revised target for Bangladesh was 210 in 24 overs and the Tigers won the game by five wickets with seven balls to spare.
Such was the dominance of the Bangladesh batters.
Despite even a single batsman not scoring a century in the tournament, there were six half-centuries from the eventual winners. It shows the consistency and depth in quality of this batting line-up. And the cherry on top of the cake was the blinder by young Mosaddek Hossain in the final. He scored a 20-ball half century - fastest by a Bangladeshi - and took his team to a historic tournament triumph.
Overall, it has been an ideal dress-rehearsal for Bangladesh before the World Cup. They will fly to England with confidence and momentum on their side. However, this team would have been better tested if they were asked to defend totals in some of these matches. Nevertheless, following the tour of Ireland, the team management is now better equipped to identify its best combination for the English pitches.