Revamped Tigers show promise even in defeat
It was a case of so close, yet so far for Bangladesh, who put up a great fight in defending a small 127-run total before going down to a four-wicket defeat to Pakistan in the first game of a three-match T20I series at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur yesterday.
Bangladesh did not get enough runs on the board and many will feel it would have been a different story had they scored 20 more or if that 18th over of the Pakistan innings -- when Mustafizur Rahman conceded 15 runs with Pakistan requiring 32 off 18 deliveries -- had gone differently. But in the end, Shadab Khan smashed a six-to-leg spinner Aminul Islam in the last over to reach the target with four balls to spare and stamp Pakistan's authority as the better unit.
However, the Tigers can take a lot of positives from a game and the body language and intent shown by a rather young, inexperienced Bangladesh following a major shake-up after a dismal ICC T20 World Cup campaign deserves some appreciation.
The hosts got off to yet another disastrous start after skipper Mahmudullah Riyad opted to bat, being reduced to 25 for three after six overs to record their third-worst score in the Powerplay.
Saif Hasan, who made his T20I debut yesterday, failed to make an impact and was dismissed after making just one run while the likes of Naim Sheikh (1) and Najmul Hossain also (7) dealt with the harsh realities of facing a quality bowling attack.
Young Afif Hossain showed some resilience and initiated a counter-attack, hitting the first six of the innings in the eleventh over and doing the same off the following ball from left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz to bring life back to the Mirpur stands.
The left-hander was dismissed after scoring 36 off 34 balls but the tempo he set provided the confidence that Nurul Hasan and Mahedi Hasan needed to seize the momentum and, backed by the ten-thousand strong crowd, Bangladesh went on to add 47 runs in the last five overs.
Nurul hit two sixes before being dismissed for a 22-ball 28 while Mahedi remained not out on 30 off just 20 balls with two sixes, including a scooped maximum over fine leg to Haris Rouf in the final over that brought the crowd to their feet. Mahedi was also impressive with the new ball and managed to restrict the visiting batters and ended up conceding just 17 runs from four overs and also getting the wicket of Haider Ali.
It would be too harsh to blame this young and underprepared Bangladesh unit for the defeat, especially considering they were up against an in-form Pakistan. But it will be important for the team management to provide assurances to the players and it would not be a surprise if the Tigers manage to clinch a win in the coming two games by doing the basics right.