Bangladesh's score of 249 for seven in the crucial Asia Cup Super Four match against Afghanistan yesterday may have elicited a chorus of relieved sighs across the country, but it did not signify a cure to what has been ailing their batting in the ongoing Asia Cup.
What it did was show that, as vice-captain Shakib Al Hasan said in as many words on the eve of the match, Bangladesh have the greater pedigree. It showed in the 128-run stand between Imrul Kayes and Mahmudullah Riyad -- Bangladesh's highest sixth-wicket partnership in ODIs. However, before that intervention of quality, the problems that have plagued them so far were in plentiful evidence as they crumbled to 87 for five.
Despite Bangladesh skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza talking about preserving wickets in the first 10 overs after the two hammerings by Afghanistan and India, Bangladesh were two down within the first six overs. Rookie opener Nazmul Hossain was most culpable, perishing when stepping back and looking to clear the infield after putting on the Tigers' highest opening partnership of the tournament -- 16.
If losing early wickets has been a constant thorn, their tendency to completely lose the plot when faced with even an imagined threat has been no less so, and the next three wickets were perfect examples. Opener Liton Das reached 42 when leg-spinner Rashid Khan -- who seems to have taken up residence in Bangladesh batsmen's minds of late -- came on for the first time to bowl the 19th over. Liton hit him for a spectacular boundary in the second ball but then played an ugly slog sweep that got what it deserved -- a steep take at slip.
Vice-captain Shakib Al Hasan followed a ball later, going for a suicidal run, apparently to get away from Rashid. That the 20-year-old had disturbed the equilibrium Mushfiqur Rahim and Liton had built during a 63-run third-wicket stand was obvious when, in Rashid's next over, self-destructed in the same manner.
Imrul Kayes was brought in the previous day to increase the Tigers' batting options, and replaced Mosaddek Hossain in the middle order an unusual position for an opener. But it proved a masterstroke as being left-handed, he handled Rashid well during an unbeaten 89-ball 72. Mahmudullah showed all his class in not only surviving Rashid in the early stages but dominating him with two slog-swept sixes in the slog overs to end with an 81-ball 74.
It was pretty much what happened in Bangladesh's opening match against Sri Lanka when Mushfiqur-- and to a lesser extent Mohammad Mithun -- rescued the team after they lost two wickets in the first over and lost opener Tamim Iqbal to injury. When there are three or four good batsmen in the team, given enough opportunities, they will play good innings and make a difference. But what followed that win in the opening match were two total batting failures because those same batsmen will not score every time.
It may have proven enough, but with more difficult tests coming up, yesterday was little more than an affirmation of quality.