Before Bangladesh's crucial Asia Cup Super Four match against Afghanistan a major point of contention was the flying in of discarded national openers Imrul Kayes and Soumya Sarkar, which was presumed to be a knee-jerk reaction to the failures of the fledgling opening pair of Nazmul Hossain Shanto and Liton Das.
Imrul -- who has not been able to cement his spot as Tamim Iqbal's opening partner despite playing 70 matches in a career spanning nearly 10 years – was picked to play against Afghanistan in a match that began a mere 17 hours after he landed in the UAE. But the team management had a special plan for Imrul as instead of opening, he came out at number six for the first time in his ODI career and from 87 for five he crafted a 128-run sixth-wicket partnership with Mahmudullah Riyad that enabled Bangladesh to score 249 for seven.
It set the stage for Mustafizur Rahman to bowl an excellent last over that delivered a thrilling three-run win and kept Bangladesh alive in the race to meet India in the final on September 28. Imrul's contribution was a perfectly paced, unbeaten 89-ball 72 in his first ODI since October 2017. It showed the value experience can have even when batting in an unfamiliar position and unfamiliar conditions.
"Of course there was a special plan because Imrul is an experienced player," said Mahmudullah after the match. "We needed to use that experience. Imrul flew in yesterday [Saturday] and played such an outstanding innings. It feels very good and I hope he continues.
"It was very pleasing to me because Imrul had never batted at six. Being a top-order batsman and playing such an innings was quite outstanding."
The match saw a rejig of the batting order and it was probably to counter the threat of Afghan leg-spinner and the top-ranked ODI bowler in the world, Rashid Khan.
"For this particular game we arranged the batting order a little differently. Shakib was normally batting at three and Mushy at four. We have quite a few lefties in the top order. We were struggling in the last two or three matches with our opening partnership. Today, Liton [41 off 43] played well. Then we struggled in the middle, and during our partnership we were trying to bat as deep into the innings as possible.'