The lasting memory of Bangladesh’s 137-run win over Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup opener on Saturday may be Tamim Iqbal coming out with a broken wrist to play out one delivery from Suranga Lakmal so that Bangladesh could continue batting after the fall of the ninth wicket, but the match was won by the contribution of the man who carried the charge forward.
Mushfiqur Rahim, during a career-best knock of 144 -- 32 of which were scored off 15 balls after Tamim’s unexpected appearance -- proved once again why he is the best all-round batsman Bangladesh have.
“He [Mushfiqur] played one of the best one-day innings by a Bangladesh batsman. It was played under real pressure -- losing two early wickets and also Tamim couldn’t bat in that time,” said ODI skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza about Mushfiqur’s feat, which saw the wicketkeeper-batsman first consolidating after Tamim retired hurt in the second over and then opening up during one of the great ODI knocks in recent times. “I think the way he played, especially the way he finished, was really good.”
Opener Liton Das and Shakib Al Hasan had departed for ducks in the first over, undone by an on-song Lasith Malinga. Tamim’s departure to hospital effectively had Bangladesh two down with just three runs on the board. Mushfiqur however was not perturbed.
He scored his first 10 runs off 31 deliveries, making sure there were no further damages, talking Mohammad Mithun -- making a comeback to the side -- through the tough phase and some false shots. He hit the side’s first boundary in the last ball of the eighth over, which in these boundary-filled times shows how tough those the first 10 overs were.
Having shown his skill of endurance, the multi-layered Mushfiqur then set about taking the attack apart, bringing up his 50 off 67 balls.
“Obviously I have to talk about Mithun. He handled the pressure very well,” Mashrafe added about the youngster who scored 68-ball 63 during a match-turning 131-run third-wicket stand.
But Mithun faltered in the 26th over, playing across the line to Malinga and getting out, precipitating a collapse of three wickets for 10 runs. Mushfiqur returned to endurance mode and continued to inch Bangladesh towards a competitive total even when the lower order failed to stick it out with him. When number 11 Mustafizur Rahman ran himself out in the 47th over with the score on 229 and Mushfiqur on 112 off 135, a barely competitive score seemed to be all Bangladesh would get.
Tamim’s arrival changed all that, and Mashrafe thought that it actually gave Mushfiqur a boost. The next 15 balls saw the other gear that Mushfiqur has which can only be seen as one employed by the game’s geniuses. He seemed to be hitting the ball at will – at his best his arsenal of shots is so varied that no delivery, even yorkers, escape punishment. There was the scoop that turned into a ramp at the last second, inside-out cover drives for a four and a six and a pulled six that would have been expected of a batsman twice his size.
“His innings was a great succour for us because without it the match could have been different,” Mashrafe added. That may well be the understatement of the tournament.