Mahmudullah Riyad strode happily into the press conference room at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, less than 20 minutes after Bangladesh pacer Mustafizur Rahman a superb last over to give Bangladesh a three-run win that kept their hopes alive in the ongoing Asia Cup.
Bangladesh, and Mahmudullah in particular, has been on the receiving end of many last-over heartbreaks in the past, and pulling off a win in a similar situation gave him extra pleasure.
“What felt especially good was that on many occasions we have not been able to score eight runs off the last six balls, and today we defended that. So it was quite pleasing,” Mahmudullah, adjudged player of the match for his 74 in Bangladesh’s 249 for seven, told reporters during the post-match press conference.
In the 2012 Asia Cup in Dhaka, Bangladesh had needed nine runs to win the final against Pakistan with Mahmudullah at the crease, but they could manage only six of those. In the 2016 World Twenty20, Bangladesh needed 11 to win off the last over and, with Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah Riyad at the crease, had got it down to two off three balls before both holed out and Bangladesh lost by one run.
Most recently it was against Afghanistan in the Dehradun when Bangladesh needed nine off the last over – again with Mushfiqur and Mahmudullah at the crease. Mushfiqur was out off the first ball and by the time the last ball rolled around, Bangladesh needed four but Mahmudullah could hit only two as Shafiqullah Shenwari put in a sensational effort at long on.
But having held their nerve in the Asia Cup, Bangladesh may just be starting a turnaround in the Asia Cup after abject performances in their last two matches, which they lost by 136 runs to Afghanistan on Thursday and by seven wickets to India the following day. Their batting has been a concern throughout, with only individual performances saving them in the two matches they have won so far. Mushfiqur hit 144 in the opening game against Sri Lanka after they were two down in the first over and lost talismanic opener Tamim Iqbal to injury. On Sunday it was the Bangladesh record 128-run sixth-wicket stand between Mahmudullah and Imrul Kayes – who flew in only on Saturday night – that rescued the team from the dire straits of 87 for five.
“We still need to work on a few areas,” said Mahmudullah. “I will give full credit to our bowling department. But we still need to work on a few things in our batting… especially in the top order, there are still things we can improve on. Our middle order has been quite strong, but our top order needs to click.”
He thought that the absence of Tamim – who flew home with a fractured left hand last Tuesday – was a blow but could be a blessing in disguise. He also stuck up for new opener Nazmul Hossain Shanto, who replaced Tamim but has just been able to score 7, 7 and 6 in his three innings so far.
“All these days when Tamim was there, he has been playing really well. We are of course missing Tamim a lot, but it’s also a good opportunity for other players. Liton played very well today. Shanto is quite new, so we can't put too much pressure on him. He's quite new, but I think he is still a very good prospect for Bangladesh; we have to give him enough time.”