Tigers' best not good enough
Soumya Sarkar made a sparkling return to the national side with his maiden T20I half-century, Mushfiqur Rahim made his highest T20 score and captain Mahmudullah Riyad showed some brilliant improvisation; all of which combined saw Bangladesh post their highest total, 193, in the shortest format of the game.
However, in the end all those achievements were for naught as the new-look Tigers -- featuring four fresh faces -- failed to stop Sri Lanka from posting a comfortable six-wicket victory in the first game of the two-match T20I series at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur yesterday night.
Bangladesh may have complied with their captain's motto of playing fearless cricket without the fear of failure after Mahmudullah decided to bat on a placid track, but there were questions about whether the Tigers fell some valuable runs short, especially after making 100 from the first 10 overs, and the captain himself did not hesitate in accepting that fact at the post-match presentation ceremony.
It was a case of the Sri Lankan batsmen outsmarting the home side's bowling attack as they chased down 194 -- their highest successful chase in T20 cricket -- to take a 1-0 lead in the series. Sri Lanka's previous-best T20 chase of 176 came against Australia.
Five Bangladesh bowlers conceded over 10 runs per over and only one of the four debutants, left-arm spinner Nazmul Islam, was impressive with figures of 2-25.
Kusal Mendis (53 off 27 balls) and Danushka Gunathilaka (30 off 15 balls) showed no nerves after being tasked with the job of a record chase. Instead the two openers, alongside the two unbeaten batsmen Dasun Shanaka (42 off 24 balls) and Thisara Perera (39 off 18 balls), played some smart cricket to put the inexperienced home side bowling to the sword and finished the chase with a healthy 3.2 overs to spare.
Although there had been plenty of talk about the young bloods, the four debutants hardly made a mark in their first international appearance. Instead it was experienced campaigners like Mushfiqur, Mahmudullah and Soumya Sarker who made impacts.
Soumya and debutant Zakir Hasan made their intentions very clear after plundering 17 runs from the first over off Sri Lankan debutant Shehan Madushanka. And despite wicketkeeper-batsman Zakir being dismissed early, Soumya made a positive statement on his return by smashing a 32-ball 51 that featured four boundaries and two sixes.
But it was the partnership between Mahmudullah (31-ball 43) and Mushfiqur (44-ball 66) that was most entertaining. It was nice to see the two batsmen's positive approach despite Jeevan Mendis having turned up the pressure by taking the wickets of Afif Hossain, who scored a duck, and Sabbir Rahman.
Mushfiqur's batting display was sublime but Mahmudullah's improvisation was simply outstanding, some examples being the way he got behind the line of the ball and smacked over cover or when he backed away even before the ball was bowled by Madushanka before smacking it over the rope.
Their effort helped Bangladesh surpass their best of 190 for five against Ireland in 2012 but was not enough to stop their misery against the Lankans.
Now they will play their last game against the visitors on February 18 at the Sylhet International Cricket Stadium with only the hope of saving face.