Bangladesh players, led by captain Mushfiqur Rahim (C), get ready for practice at the Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo yesterday ahead of their third and final ODI against Zimbabwe today. PHOTO: COURTESY OF PROTHOM ALO
Today's third and deciding ODI between Bangladesh and Zimbabwe decides more than just the three-match series. When in the morning Mushfiqur Rahim will go out to toss the coin -- a very important moment as batting is easier in the afternoon -- he will know that the success or failure of the whole tour will hinge on this game.
Having bounced back in the Tests to draw the series 1-1, bragging rights will rest with the winners of the ODI series. Matches between the countries are keenly contested as they occupy a sphere just below the standards of the top Test teams. Yet the situation has reached such a point -- four matches on tour and nothing to separate the sides -- should be a surprise for those following Bangladesh over the past year and a half.
They were playing superior cricket coming into the series; they had won an ODI series against a West Indies team fresh from winning the T20 World Cup late last year, and a fortnight before coming to Zimbabwe had drawn an ODI series against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka. Following the fortunes of the team on tour one thing is evident -- the Tigers have not learnt from mistakes as well as their opponents have. Even in the comeback performance in the second Test, wickets had been given away freely in the first innings -- the very lesson needed to be imbibed after the first Test debacle in which the team folded for a combined total of 281.
Zimbabwe, on the other hand, after capitulating to 148 all out in the first ODI put on a determined show in the second. Up to that point of the series it seemed that only Brendan Taylor and Hamilton Masakadza could score runs against Bangladesh and that their dismissals would spell doom. But that wasn't to be as Sean Williams's 78, Vusi Sibanda's 49 and Malcolm Waller's 39 were instrumental in levelling the series, quite convincingly. The result is suddenly Zimbabwe look a far more formidable side, and a series win for Bangladesh does not look nearly as easy as it did after the first game, which they won by 121 runs.
While Zimbabwe have quickly learnt from a setback, Bangladesh still seem to be struggling with the lessons of the first Test -- against nothing more than a modest attack they slipped to 90-odd for four in both matches.
However, it will be hard to say that the cricketers do not try. Having seen their practice sessions and the effort they put in on the field it is obvious that winning means the world to them. But on this tour especially, the batsmen with the exception of skipper Mushfiqur Rahim seem to have set themselves to play in an aggressive manner, and are either unwilling or unable to adapt beyond that.
For the crucial match there will be one confirmed change -- left-handed batsman Mominul Haque will make way for Jahurul Islam, which may also mean that Mohammad Ashraful will slot back into the middle-order.
More than against any other side, the true state of the Bangladesh team comes out in a series against Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe. It is perhaps because this is when they are under actual pressure to win while against higher-ranked teams a success is still a pleasant surprise. So far on this tour, the batting has shown a slight immaturity in its reluctance to change with the requirements of the moment. The Tigers have one more chance to change that impression today.