It was yet another comprehensive win for the Tigers when they posted a 91-run victory with a bonus point against Zimbabwe in their third tri-series match at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium yesterday. Fittingly, the key architects behind their third big win on the trot were none other than the country's two prolific players Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal, and the latter was finally delighted with the player-of-the-match award despite the former continuing his all-round brilliance with a half-century and a three-wicket haul.
Bangladesh have already confirmed a final berth with their two earlier wins, but their opponents for the final next Saturday is still uncertain with Zimbabwe now having slipped below Sri Lanka in their net run rate. With Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe having one win each and the latter having played all of their league games, a win for Sri Lanka in Thursday's last group match against Bangladesh should see them through.
The game also saw some notable individual achievements. While scoring a magnificent 76 on a difficult track, Tamim brought up two milestones as the left-hander became the first Bangladesh batsman to reach 6,000 ODI runs and also became the highest run-scorer at a single venue in ODI cricket, going past Sri Lanka's Sanath Jayasuirya's 2514 at R. Premadasa Stadium. It was also skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza's 30th win as Bangladesh captain, overtaking Habibul Bashar's tally of 29 to make him the most successful in terms of wins.
Even with such bright moments, the win was not without its flaws, unlike their clinical showings against Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka in the first two games. Losing six wickets for 23 runs is not a good sign for a team that has been having a good time at home, and refreshingly Bangladesh team members from Mashrafe to Tamim did not try to brush the collapse under the carpet, although they did bracket the pitch as tricky and difficult to bat on as it offered seam movement for pacers and turn for the slow bowlers.
It was not at all surprising that Zimbabwe were dismissed for 125 runs in chase of 216 as Bangladesh's spinners and pacers made maximum use of a typical Mirpur surface, which was not the case in the first two games. The team management had reason to be satisfied with the effort of the bowling department, especially the way Mashrafe and Shakib affected an early end to Zimbabwe's chances by taking four wickets in the first 10 overs, but they have identify why the team suffered an embarrassing batting collapse after a 106-run second wicket partnership between Tamim and Shakib.
Mashrafe and Tamim rightly praised numbers nine, 10 and 11, who added 46 runs, but one could not find the logic behind the madness of Tamim and Shakib, who ended their brilliant effort by playing reckless shots at wrong junctures of the innings. Then, the quick dismissals of Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah Riyad's provided a platform for two lower-middle-order batsmen -- Sabbir Rahman and Nasir Hossain -- to impress a team management that has been searching for suitable players in these positions.
Kyle Jarvis had Anamul Haque leg-before in the third over but Tamim and Shakib once again took charge to take their team to safety, driving and cutting handsomely against the pace bowlers and showing caution when the spinners were getting a few to stay low. Shakib managed to strike Sikandar Raza through point to reach his fifty off 78 balls but in the first ball of his next over, Raza had Shakib stumped as the left-hander tried to give him an ill-timed and ill-advised charge. Then skipper Graeme Cremer put the home side under huge pressure as Mushfiqur top-edged a sweep before Mahmudullah was trapped leg-before with a googly.
Tamim made the same mistake as Shakib and became, along with Mushfiqur and Mahmudullah, one of Cremer's three wickets in successive overs shortly after as he was stumped for 76 off 105 balls, once again having to be content with three half-centuries in as many games, and no hundreds.
Sabbir could have blamed his fate as he was brilliantly caught by Craig Ervine at short midwicket but Nasir could not do so as he unnecessarily went for a late cut and edged it to the keeper.
Just as Jarvis was not ready to blame the pitch for his team's batting debacle in the post-match briefing, Bangladesh cannot point to the Mirpur surface if they want to maintain the intensity and momentum as per the desire of captain Mashrafe.