Tamim Iqbal’s seventh ODI century led Bangladesh to a decent 279 in the third and final ODI against Afghanistan at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur.
The left-hander smacked a run-a-ball 118 at the top with 11 fours and two sixes and was the mainstay of Bangladesh’s batting. He was well supported by Sabbir Rahman, who batted at three today and scored a hard-fought 65 off 79 balls.
The duo put on 140 runs in 24.2 overs and laid the platform for the middle-order batsmen to fire. It was a crucial partnership considering that the out-of-form Soumya Sarkar had failed again. He scored 11 off 11 balls, before edging behind to a wide delivery from Mirwais Ashraf in the sixth over.
Things could have been worse for Bangladesh had Tamim been caught off Mohammad Nabi in the third over for one. He tried to heave Nabi out of the ground through deep mid-wicket, but instead miscued it to the mid-on fielder, Asghar Stankzai. The captain of the Afghanistan team who had earlier spilt a sitter in the series, dropped one again. And while the drop of Mahmudullah Riyad in the first game cost Afghanistan just four runs, this one proved to be extremely costly.
Both the batsmen just looked to get set initially during the partnership. While Tamim did hit Mirwais Ashraf for three boundaries in the eighth over, Bangladesh just managed to score 39 runs in the first 10 overs.
Batting at three for the first time in the series, Sabbir looked extremely edgy initially. Immediately after arriving at the crease he tried hard to heave deliveries through the legside and in the process almost nicked a few to the keeper. However, once he timed one beautifully and smacked Dawlat Zadran over deep midwicket for a six in the eleventh over, he started to look a lot better.
He then pounced on Samiullah Shenwari’s leg-spin for 10 runs in the 15th over. Afghanistan’s ploy to use three leg-spinners, Rashid Khan, Rahmat Shah and Shenwari proved to backfire a bit as the Bangladeshi batsmen seemed to play at least Shenwari and Rahmat with ease.
While Tamim was not hitting as many boundaries as Sabbir, he quietly kept the momentum on with singles. He reached his half-century in the 19th over off 63 balls by just guiding Rahmat past point.
He unleashed himself after the 26th over. He began by stepping out of the crease and hitting it over the bowler’s head for a four. He then dispatched two half trackers from Rashid Khan, who otherwise had a fabulous game, for boundaries and suddenly Tamim seemed more likely to reach the century.
He was panting, but he still managed to find the middle of the bat. He eventually reached his century in the 37th over, when he tucked Dawlat Zadran down the leg-side and took a single, which he celebrated in style.
He was on fire after that and Rahmat Shah got the beating.
The first three balls of the 38th over were smacked for four, six, six. The two sixes in particular were beautiful to watch. He came down the track and heaved the first one over mid-wicket. In the very next ball, he charged out of the crease again, but this time delicately placed the ball over extra cover for a six.
He eventually got out in the 39th over, caught in the deep while attempting another boundary.
After Tamim’s wicket however, Bangladesh suffered a mini-collapse and their run-rate dropped. At the 40-over mark they were poised at 215 for three. In the next five overs, they managed to score just 24 runs and lost three wickets. Shakib was caught behind, while Mushfiqur and Mosaddek Hossain were outdone by two beautiful deliveries from Rashid Khan in the 44th over. Rashid was once again the key performer for the visitors, finishing with figures of two for 40.
Mahmudullah Riyad’s 32 off 22 towards the end and helped Bangladesh cross the 270-mark.
The Afghans, who seemed under pressure, could have restricted the hosts further had they held on to their catches and not given away so many extra runs on the field. Bangladesh actually received two boundaries courtesy of overthrows.
Stanikzai’s captaincy too seemed quite defensive with the Afghan skipper preferring to spread the field on a number of occasions during the crucial century stand between Tamim and Sabbir.