There was a lot of hype before the opening match between Bangladesh and Afghanistan. In the end it offered an anticlimactic finish. The Tigers triumphed in flying colours. A nine-wicket victory for the home side was not just a kind of revenge of their Asia Cup defeat against the feisty Afghans, but more importantly proved the gulf between an associate and a full member nation of the ICC.
On the field the proof was aplenty. The body language of the Tigers conveyed that they did not like the way they were beaten in the Asia Cup. They were so ruthless that it seemed they did not want to take any prisoners. The wicket with the very first ball of the Afghanistan innings showed how important Mashrafe Bin Mortaza with a shining cherry is for the Tigers. There was a moment when it looked like the Afghans would break the shackles, compliments of rookie paceman Al-Amin Hossain, who appeared to have suffered from stage fright. But captain Mushfiqur Rahim rightly turned to his trusted spinning duo of Shakib Al Hasan and Abdur Razzak, who not only meant business but also exploited the turn and bounce with aplomb and caught the Afghans one after another with a kind of net called current jal -- a very popular net for any Bangladeshi fisherman.
The end result was devastating, Afghanistan were bowled out for their lowest-ever T20 score of 72. That effectively killed the match as a contest.
The good thing about Bangladesh was that they hardly put a foot wrong in the match. The army of spinners lived up to their billing; they were superbly backed by standard fielding. Young Sabbir Rahman might have dropped a catch but he more than made up for it by taking a spectacular running catch off the next ball and affecting a run out with a superb direct hit.
Mushfiqur has a tendency of sticking to a set game plan and for that he has been criticised a lot. It was refreshing that his understanding of the T20 game, where things can change in an over or two, is getting more realistic. He not only rotated his bowlers judiciously, but also showed instant tactical awareness by quickly removing Al-Amin from the firing line.
It seems that the abridged format allows a sort of immediacy to take over in Mushfiqur's tactics, with there being only 20 overs to play with. One can hope that this immediacy results in more decisiveness in the future -- as he showed with his bowling changes yesterday that he was responding to the situation on the field and not following preset plans.
This was a kind of situation that Bangladesh are not familiar with. They walked into a tournament as favourites (at least for the first phase) -- a consequence of ICC's meritocracy policy. This was more than just another game for them. It was more about ensuring their bragging rights to be where they actually belong, and they achieved that in some style.