Magnificent Mash levels series
The series is alive and the roar is set to grow from loud to louder as the caravan moves from Bangladesh's home of cricket in Mirpur to Chittagong for the third ODI on Wednesday, which probably will be the best unofficial final the Tigers have ever been part of in a three-match ODI series.
The series is alive because the Tigers have just won the second game by 34 runs -¬- their biggest win in terms of runs against England -- in spectacular fashion and perhaps more sensationally than the way they lost the opening game against England on Friday. England fought till the end with a 45-run last-wicket partnership between Adil Rashid and Jake Ball, but it ended fittingly when two of the heroes of the match combined to deliver the series-leveller when Nasir Hossain caught Ball in the deep to give skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza his fourth wicket.
It was not only a sensational victory on the back of uncertainty after the Tigers posted a below-par 238 for eight, but the manner in which it was achieved probably provided the best positive reaction after a heart-breaking defeat. It also showed the coming of age of a fledgling cricketing nation that was bracketed as an average team a few years ago.
Besides, the way the impressive England team surrendered in the Mirpur pressure-cooker, where every move from the magnificent Mashrafe turned to gold and was wildly cheered, was a sight to behold. There were many heroes in that victory that put Bangladesh in contention to win their seventh home series on the trot. And it all started with the magnificence of Mashrafe.
Criticised for playing a bad shot in the first game, which the Tigers threw away from an advantageous position, player-of-the-match Mashrafe batted the way he knows best -- using his muscle and hitting the ball the distance. His 29-ball 44 that contained three sixes and two fours took Bangladesh's total from a hopeless situation to a fighting 238 for eight.
The Tiger at heart then took the new ball to rattle the vaunted England line-up, claiming three wickets in his first five overs and with Shakib Al Hasan operating from the other end, the visitors were suffocated to 26 for four. England captain Jos Buttler (57) and Jonny Bairstow (35) threw caution to the wind and tried to take the game away from the firm grip of the home side.
But then up popped another hero in the form of Mashrafe's serious understudy Taskin Ahmed, who dismissed both batsmen with two fast and furious deliveries. While Bairstow edged behind, Buttler needed the third umpire's ruling before leaving the ground but not before a verbal exchange with Mahmudullah Riyad. Baisrtow was initially given not out but Mashrafe appealed for a review, replays clearly showed the ball struck him right in front of the wicket.
Shakib might have disappointed with the bat, but the champion all-rounder bowled beautifully while sharing the new ball with Mashrafe. He bowled seven overs on the trot to keep the visitors on a tight leash and bowled Ben Duckett when the left-hander tried to break free from the shackles. But Shakib's most telling contribution of the match was a magnificent diving catch that dismissed Moeen Ali off Nasir's bowling.
Earlier, Bangladesh's innings never got the desired momentum apart from that last eight overs or so when Mashrafe wielded his willow to great effect. It was his enterprising 44 off only 29 balls and an equally impressive run-a-ball unbeaten 27 by Nasir that eventually gave Bangladesh a total to fight.
On a slightly different wicket from the first game where the ball stopped a bit, both openers Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes struggled to time the ball. Imrul appeared to have started from where he had left off after that magnificent century, hitting the fifth ball of the innings for a four square of the wicket. But he was first to go, mistiming an attempted pull against Chris Woakes, who also accounted for a sluggish Tamim with yet another bouncer. Judging by the last two games Tamim was a pale shadow of his brilliant self and struggled to time the ball. With two wickets already down in quick succession, when Sabbir Rahman dragged a beautiful incoming delivery from Ball onto his stumps, the Tigers on 39 for three were left with the serious job of rebuilding the innings.
And Riyad's 75 off 88 balls -- scored despite wickets falling at the other end at regular intervals -- was the cornerstone of that effort. Mushfiqur Rahim scored 21 before falling victim to another short ball. The right-hander was not in a position to play the shot and ended up ballooning it to deep fine leg, where Rashid took a smart catch. Shakib Al Hasan had the misfortune of being caught down the leg side for three.
But Riyad, who played brilliantly and struck six sweetly-timed boundaries including an eye-pleasing four through the covers off leg-spinner Adil Rashid, stuck to his guns in a desperate attempt to give the score some respectability. Despite playing so well, the right-hander had only himself to blame for missing what could have been his third century and second against England after that famous hundred in the 2015 World Cup down under.
He tried to sweep fine against a Rashid googly but missed the ball and was adjudged leg-before. He made a belated appeal for a review which was overruled by the third umpire. When Riyad got out and young Mosaddek Hossain followed him after the addition of nine runs to the total, Bangladesh were in serious trouble of being bowled out below 200 runs. At 179 for seven, the home side was hugely indebted to their inspirational captain Mashrafe and Nasir, who came in place of left-arm spinner Mosharaf Hossain, to post what ultimately turned out to be a winning total. And that 69-run eighth-wicket partnership eventually proved priceless.