It was set to be a special game and Bangladesh made it even more so as they gave skipper Mashrafe a fitting send-off by completing a 3-0 whitewash of Zimbabwe when they won the third ODI by 123 runs amid a festive atmosphere at the Sylhet International Stadium yesterday.
The scenes in Sylhet were incredible and indelible. Tamim Iqbal lifted Mashrafe on his shoulders as the team gave their beloved leader, Bangladesh's most successful, the perfect farewell.
The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) marked the special occasion with BCB President Nazmul Hassan handing Mashrafe – who announced that he would step down from captaincy after the series -- a souvenir during the presentation ceremony.
His teammates stood near him, wearing specially made t-shirts saying 'Thank You Mashrafe', and they also gave the 36-year-old a t-shirt signed by all members of the team.
With the win, Mashrafe passes on the baton as the most successful captain in the format for the Tigers with 50 wins in 88 matches.
Perhaps Mashrafe's teammates put in extra effort to give a fitting farewell to their captain fantastic as blistering centuries from openers Liton Das and Tamim Iqbal during a Bangladesh-record opening stand in a huge total of 322 for 3 in 43 overs, after rain during the Bangladesh innings curtailed the game.
It was the first time that Bangladesh managed to post over 300 in three consecutive games and that eventually ended a successful ODI series.
Liton registered his third ODI hundred and his second in the three-match series. The right-hander was eventually dismissed after a magnificent 143-ball 176, which featured eight sixes and 16 fours. Tamim at the other end registered his second ton in as many matches -- his 13th in the format – and remained unbeaten on 128 off 109 balls with six sixes and seven fours.
In reply, Zimbabwe needed a rather humongous 343 runs in 43 after the total was readjusted according to the Duckworth-Lewis method, but they kept losing wickets at regular intervals and were eventually all out for 218 with Sikandar Raza top-scoring with 61.
Mohammad Saifuddin was instrumental once again on his return to the side, picking up four wickets while skipper Mashrafe also bagged a wicket in his last game as captain.
Earlier, Bangladesh were asked to bat first after skipper Mashrafe lost his last ever toss as captain as Zimbabwe skipper Sean Williams had to pay a heavy price for the decision on a flat Sylhet pitch.
Interestingly, it was Tamim who started off with positive intent while Liton remained relatively calm until he smashed two boundaries off pacer Charlton Tshuma to get going.
Since then it was a Liton show as the stylish right-hander reached his fifty off 54 balls as runs started to come thick and fast for the hosts.
Liton eventually reached his hundred off 114 balls and registered his third ODI ton and his second in the series. Rain then halted the game after 33.2 overs, and after a two-hour-38-minute delay, Bangladesh were on 182 and Tamim 21 away from his hundred, and batsmen's aggression only increased upon resumption.
Liton however was lucky as he was dropped thrice, courtesy of some poor catching by the Zimbabwean fielders, while Tamim registered his 13th ODI ton off 98 balls.
Since then it was total carnage from Liton as he reached 150 in no time and eventually broke the record for the highest individual score by a Bangladeshi when he struck a boundary to surpass Tamim's 158 run knock in the second ODI. The way Liton was striking the ball and it was raining sixes all over the ground, at one point it seemed the right-hander would become the first Bangladesh batsman to score a double-hundred in ODIs.
But amidst all the individual heroics it was Mashrafe's day. At the end of it all, he walked off victorious and millions of fans could only say, 'Thank you Captain.'