The cloud that hovered over Bangladesh national cricket team after two heavy mauling in the Test series against West Indies has been dispelled by their experienced quintet who fired in unison to power them to a 48-run win over the same opponents in the first one-day international in Guyana on Sunday.
Guyana has been a lucky venue for Bangladesh, where they won a historic match against South Africa in 2007 World Cup with at least four players from the current squad – Tamim Iqbal, Sakib al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mashrafe bin Murtaza – in the game.
The quartet was joined by Mahmudullah to orchestrate a win that was much-needed for Bangladesh, especially after their recent downslide, which also saw them getting clean swept by Afghanistan in a recent Twenty20 series.
These are the players known as five pillars of Bangladesh cricket or Fabulous Five to some others and each of them had a telling contribution in the win, which came against the odds, despite Bangladesh’s higher rankings.
A sense of déjà vu had gripped the Tigers once they lost opener Anamul Haque for a duck only in the second over of the innings after electing to bat first in a slightly overcast condition. But once Tamim and Sakib got their feet into the ground, it was Bangladesh all over the field.
True that West Indies dropped few early chances, dropping both Tamim and Sakib at the start of their innings, but the Tigers often failed to capitalise on such luck throwing their wickets cheaply.
Not on this occasion though, as both the experienced batsmen batted with caution to put up a record 207-run partnership, which provided Bangladesh a platform for a kind of total that they had been looking for on this slow pitch.
Some cricket fans criticised them for going unusually slow as it took them at least 40 overs to forge a double-hundred partnership, but given the nature of the pitch they were left with little choice.
Tamim curbed his natural instinct to hit the slowest-ever century by a Bangladeshi in an ODI, reaching his three-figure mark off 146 balls which surpassed the record of Shahriar Nafees’ 143-ball century against Zimbabwe in 2006.
But he did something that very few openers did by remaining unbeaten throughout the innings and was rewarded with 130 off 160 balls, which included two sixes off successive balls in the final over.
Sakib missed the century by three runs, though he had very little things to regret as his 97 off 121 balls was as precious as any other innings if it came helping the team. He batted unselfishly and was finally caught while attempting a four, which could only indicate his positive intention throughout the innings.
He was not in the best shape of his mind, especially after leading the team to the drubbings in Tests and then facing a harsh criticism from Bangladesh Cricket Board president Nazmul Hasan, who questioned his personal integrity.
But Sakib paid very little heed to the controversial remarks of Nazmul, playing with his natural style that proved to be priceless once again.
Not in a very distant past, Nazmul also had called in question the six-hitting ability of Mushfiqur Rahim, who did not waste any opportunity to prove him wrong ever since.
He struck two sixes on this occasion in his 11-ball cameo of 30, which eventually guided Bangladesh to challenging total of 279-4.
Mahmudullah’s boundary in the only ball he faced gave an indication that he would not have batted differently if he had to come early.
Mahmudullah then had his hands in the run out of Chris Gayle and also took three catches – all off the bowling of Mashrafee bin Murtaza, who perhaps had the most important contributions among the five senior players.
Mashrafee was not sure about playing in this series as his wife was in sick bed only a week ago. He joined the team late and missed the only warm-up game to avoid jet leg. But the moment he took the field he forgot all other worries to lift a side that was heavily demoralised to say the least.
Very often Mashrafee brings an air of positivity in the team if not a match-winning performance. This time he did both, helping the team to shrug off their recent poor form before finishing with 4-37 to win the game for them. No one could have done this better than Mashrafee.
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