Bangladesh vs Afghanistan match: Imrul Kayes rises to the call
12:00 AM, September 24, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:34 PM, September 24, 2018

Imrul rises to the call

When Imrul Kayes was sleeping in Khulna just two days ago, perhaps even he did not dream that he would be the one to steady the ship alongside Mahmudullah Riyad on his comeback to the national team with Bangladesh reeling at 87 for five against Afghanistan in the Asia Cup.

However, despite coming in at an alien No. 6 position where he had never played before in ODIs, that is exactly what the left-hander did with an 89-ball 72 in yesterday's Super Four encounter at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

Having been overlooked in ODIs for almost a year, the left-hander caught a flight from Dhaka on Saturday and navigated the scorching desert heat as well as the Afghans' world-class spin attack to stitch together a Bangladesh record 128-run sixth-wicket partnership alongside Mahmudullah to help the Tigers post a challenging 249.

The southpaw has been termed one of the unluckiest players in the national side because he has not been given a run of games to find his rhythm as others are, despite being a senior in the national side.

Others believe that Imrul has been given enough chances, but has failed to show the consistency required to make a position for himself in the side.

He had scored a half-century in his second-last game, during the ODI series against South Africa in 2017, before being dropped.

He has also been labelled a Test specialist, but the way he constructed his innings yesterday should prove his credentials in the shorter format. The Tigers had played out over 170 dot balls each in their last two games and that was a serious concern coming into the match. Imrul solved that problem in the crucial middle overs, keeping the strike rotating with 37 singles and four doubles which more than compensated for the 42 dot balls he played.

Even more impressive was his handling of the vaunted Rashid Khan. The recently-minted 20-year-old could only once beat Imrul, who expertly read his googlies -- a rare skill in this Bangladesh lineup -- and defended with conviction when he had to.

He also somewhat offset those defensive strokes by hitting Afghanistan's leg-spin wizard for two of his four boundaries.

Imrul's success also owes a debt to the team management's brainstorm to play him lower down the order, even though he had not batted below number three before yesterday.

Given the skill he showed against spin yesterday, there might yet be time for Bangladesh cricket's nearly man to reinvent himself as a middle-order batsman and have more success and opportunity in his last years.

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