Opener Imrul Kayes struck a brilliant hundred before the bowlers made a light work of Zimbabwe to hand Bangladesh a 28-run win in the first one-day international of three-match series against the visitors in Dhaka on Sunday.
After a shaky start in the first match at home in eight months, Imrul helped Bangladesh settled their nerve with his 144 off 140 balls, guiding the home side to 271-8 before bowlers restricted Zimbabwe to 243-9 at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium.
Spinners Mehedi Hasan and Nazmul Islam shared five wickets between them as Bangladesh made regular strikes after a 48-run opening stand between Hamilton Masakadza (21) and Cephas Zhuwao (35) gave Zimbabwe a glimmer of hope.
Mustafizur Rahman bowled Zhuwao for Bangladesh’s first breakthrough and the hosts did not look back since with the spinners taking the control of the game.
Sean Williams provided a late resistance with an unbeaten 50 off 58 and a 67-run stand with Kyle Jarvis but they were too little effort and came too late to turn the tide for Zimbabwe.
Mahmudullah took an edge from Jarvis (37) before the pair posed any serious threat for Bangladesh.
Mehedi returned with career best 3-46 and Nazmul returned with 2-38, also his career best.
The match, however, will always be remembered for Imrul’s batting blasts which prevented Bangladesh from getting dismissed for an embarrassingly low score and killed the game as contest halfway through.
Opting to bat first after skipper Mashrafee bin Murtaza won the toss, Bangladesh found themselves in a tricky situation when three wickets fell for 66 runs in 15 overs before Imrul and Mohammad Mithun steadied the innings with a 71-run fourth wicket stand.
Both Imrul and Mithun (37) hit some sixes in tandem to put the pressure back on Zimbabwe but a moment of hesitation by the latter made the things complicated again for the home side.
Mithun was hesitant to go for his shot or check it off a good length delivery of Jarvis and ended up poking one of his five catches to Brendan Taylor without showing an iota of footwork.
Mahmudullah (zero) and Mehedi (one) followed him in quick succession as Bangladesh lost three wickets in the space 16 balls to be reduced to 139-6 from 137-3.
Imrul and Saifuddin then mixed their aggression with caution to form a 127-run partnership, a record for Bangladesh for the seventh wicket surpassing Mushfiq and Naeem Islam’s 101 against Zimbabwe at Dunedin in 2010.
Saifuddin, who was playing only his fourth ODI, deserved some special plaudits for not losing his composure and trying anything extravagant until Bangladesh believed they have got the score they wanted.
He was rewarded with 50 off 59 balls, his maiden half-century, which more than justified his selection as a bowling all-rounder.
His calm presence also allowed Imrul to go for his shots taking the opener stunningly within sight of Tamim Iqbal’s record innings of 154 runs against the same opponent.
Imrul brought up his third ODI century off 118 balls and took 22 balls to reach 144 in quick time before a lofted drive off Jarvis became catch at extra-cover for Peter Moor to bring an end to his scintillating innings.
Bangladesh had still eight balls left in their innings, which Imrul might regret but he yet returned with a standing ovation that perfectly summed up the fragrance and value of his innings.
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