Clinical Tigers brush aside Zimbabwe
The Tigers began their on-field journey in 2018 with a satisfying victory at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur yesterday. It was satisfying because on the way to the eight-wicket win – which was achieved with 129 balls to spare – over Zimbabwe, the hosts did not stumble at any stage of the first match of the New Year. From Shakib Al Hasan's magical two wickets in the first over under brilliant sunshine to Tamim Iqbal's composed, unbeaten 84, Mashrafe Bin Mortaza's men were truly professional in wrapping up Zimbabwe for 170 and cantering past the total to set the tone for the tri-series.
The victory may not be a big statement as Zimbabwe extended their losing streak against Bangladesh to nine since last winning a match against the Tigers in May 2013 in Bulawayo, but the hosts had reason to be satisfied with the bright beginning to the post-Chandika Haturusingha era after a forlorn series in South Africa.
With an all-round that produced three wickets for 43 runs, a 37-run knock at the promoted number three batting position and the player-of-the match award, Shakib gave indication of another bright year. Tamim might have lost yet another player-of-the-match battle to Shakib but the left-handed opener provided enough evidence of keeping up his good form during a 93-ball 84 that contained eight sweetly timed boundaries and a six.
Bangladesh ODI skipper Mashrafe however had another reason to smile as left-arm seamer Mustafizur Rahman seemed to have recaptured some of his old form, enough for Shakib to express his satisfaction over the young man's bowling during the post-match briefing. Zimbabwe skipper Graeme Cremer described it best: “He bowled really well actually. His slower balls are difficult to pick up as you have to wait for a long time. There is a huge difference between his normal stock delivery and his slower ball and he bowled good areas today. I know he is coming from an injury so it was a good effort from him. It is tough facing him as he is a world-class bowler.”
Despite Malcolm Waller being dropped twice, Bangladesh's fielding was otherwise brilliant as all 11 players seemed focussed on the job at hand.
While Sikandar Raza resisted with 52 off 99 balls, Bangladesh's bowling -- which comprised three specialist seamers and two left-arm spinners -- was consistently tight and denied the Zimbabweans a chance to put up a fighting total.
Shakib took the new ball and removed Solomon Mire and Craig Ervine in the first over. Mire was brilliantly stumped off a wide down the leg side by Mushfiqur Rahim while Ervine chipped a catch to short midwicket. Hamilton Masakadza and Brendon Taylor then nicked off Mashrafe and Mustafizur to the wicketkeeper, leaving the side at 51 for four, a state from which Zimbabwe could not recover despite Raza's steady knock.
Zimbabwe's bowlers, on the other hand, struggled with their lines and lengths as Tamim and Shakib cashed in with 78 runs for the second wicket after opener Anamul Haque departed after playing a few eye-catching shots. Shakib was trapped in front by Raza for 37 but Tamim and Mushfiqur completed the chase in style with an unbroken 63-run stand for the third wicket.
With this match ODI cricket returned to the country after a 15-month break, but there was not a great amount of enthusiasm at Mirpur which saw a low turnout but the outcome was pleasing enough, with Mashrafe saying: “It's very important to get the first win. Hopefully we can continue."