If cricket was the winner in the 2006 humdinger between South Africa and Australia which the former won after conceding 434 in 50 overs, yesterday in the first ODI between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka at Mirpur cricket was a sorry loser. The match lasted 79.2 overs and for 68 overs it seemed a contest to see who could play the worse cricket and in the end, when tailenders Rubel Hossain and Al Amin Hossain partook in a comical run out to signal the end of the innings, Bangladesh won the bad cricket contest by a landslide.
While it is hard to even attempt objectivity when a side loses after having the opposition at 67 for eight and then being 79 for one in chase of 181, but Bangladesh's performance yesterday seemed to undo all the good work achieved since the heady days of the Asia Cup in 2012.
Five catches were dropped, three of them off the bat of top-scorer Thisara Perera, a number nine batsman who apparently transformed into Chris Gayle in the eyes of the home team. Most damaging was Mushfiqur Rahim's captaincy as he went on the defensive the moment Perera hit the first of his three sixes off Arafat Sunny, even though the first of those was a dropped catch.
Mushfiqur then took the inexplicable decision to bowl Mahmudullah Riyad when ideally he should have been throwing his best bowlers at the Lankan tail. "When Perera was hitting [Arafat] Sunny bhai we thought that the away-going delivery would yield a top edge and give us his wicket," Mushfiqur explained his fallback to the age old notion that left-arm spinners are no good for left-arm batsmen.
"Silly run-outs and [missed] catches made the difference. We can't play 30 overs really well and let off in the later 20 overs. We need to play well throughout the game," he said.
If there was a theme that bound this bizarre contest, it was the Tigers' overpowering anxiety at the slightest sign of danger. Anamul Haque was his leaden-footed self as he played away from his body in the first over of the chase, but a 79-run partnership followed between
Shamsur Rahman and Mominul Haque and there seemed to be only one possible winner at that point. Mominul departed hitting in the air to point and Shamsur's run-out, his bat getting stuck just short of the crease, was the only bit of misfortune the Tigers had suffered. The rest, as the captain himself admitted, was self-inflicted.
"I would have to say that it seems that we lost purposely. I cannot remember the last time we lost like this," said a dejected Mushfiqur.
"Having a team at 80 for eight and then conceding 180, that put us on the back foot a bit. But even then chasing 180 on the pitch was not a tough task. It was a little slow, but I would say the two run-outs [Shakib Al Hasan and Shamsur Rahman] really took the match away from us."
Shakib's run out was the first sign that panic had set in, quite unusual for a team needing 62 runs with seven wickets and 21 overs in hand. The final nail was Mushfiqur, who had seemed settled till then, trying a scoop off Angelo Mathews to be caught easily behind the wicket with only 19 to get from 35 deliveries.
In the end, it looked like Bangladesh were back to being minnows and Sri Lanka, the bigger team, just had a shocker from which they managed to recover. To their credit, Sri Lanka showed just how a side can get out of the worst of trouble, but the helping hand that Bangladesh provided will always be remembered.