Bangladesh opener Tamim Iqbal forced the spotlight to shine on him once again when he scored a brilliant century in the third one-day international against Afghanistan at Mirpur on Saturday.
Tamim, who hit 118 in as many balls to help Bangladesh post 279-8, was put into the shadow in the opening match of the series despite making a valuable contribution in seven-run win.
He had struck 80 off 98 balls, which provided the cornerstone in Bangladesh’s innings, but it was largely forgotten once bowlers made a stunning comeback to script the narrow win.
Sakib al Hasan had won the man of the match award on that occasion for scoring 48 off 40 and bowling a decisive over along with two wickets.
Taskin Ahmed also had his share of limelight for four late wickets that had compensated his poor bowling earlier in that match.
Sakib and Taskin were duly credited for the contribution but it was Tamim, who had set the base for win in co-operation with Mamhudullah.
The way Bangladesh’s lower order batted throughout the series, it was evident once again that without Tamim’s contribution it would have been very difficult for Bangladesh to compete with Afghanistan in the series.
And he delivered again when it really mattered as Bangladesh rode on his innings to get the competitive score.
The Tigers were desperately looking for someone to play a big innings after skipper Mashrafee Mortaza won the toss and elected to bat first against a spirited Afghan side.
Tamim was initially shaky, just like any other opener in such a crunch game, and had to rely on his luck to survive the initial danger.
He did not look back once Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai dropped him on one and played a controlled innings to complete his seventh ODI century – the most by a Bangladeshi - off 110 balls with 10 fours.
He returned to his usual aggressive mood only after he reached the three-figure, hitting leg-spinner Rahmat Shah for a four and two sixes off successive balls.
The overambitious batting after completing the century cost Tamim his wicket and Bangladesh collapsed almost immediately, which again highlighted the importance of his innings.
In his career of over a decade, Tamim played much better innings in ODIs against far superior bowling attacks but that cannot take anything away from this innings, which came in a very tricky situation.
With the series and pride at stake, Bangladesh had to win this game anyway and Tamim was one of their best hopes to provide the team some kind of impetus with the bat.
The opener was in prolific form in the ICC World Twenty20 in March-April and it appeared that the long gap has affected his batting little.
He accumulated 218 runs in current series, which is third highest by a Bangladeshi in a three-match bilateral series. With England being Bangladesh’s next opponents, this must be encouraging for the Tigers as Tamim enjoys his batting against Three Lions as well.
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