Bowlers lose the plot
Despite the fact that there were few fresh faces in Bangladesh's batting department to provide freedom to the relatively younger players in the first T20I against Zimbabwe, it was a full-strength bowling attack, barring the absent Shakib Al Hasan, that was made to look ordinary in Harare yesterday.
Zimbabwe elected to bat and piled up a team record total of 205 for 3 in Harare, courtesy of some wayward bowling and sloppy fielding from Bangladesh.
Nurul Hasan went with four specialist bowlers in the line-up, but disappointingly all of them remained expensive and provided frequent scoring opportunities to the Zimbabwean batters, allowing Sikanadar Raza and Wessly Madhevere to strike quick fifties for the hosts.
Left-arm seamer Mustafizur Rahman, arguably the most experienced pacer in the team, looked ordinary despite picking up two wickets as he conceded 50 runs from his four overs.
Fellow pacers Taskin Ahmed and Shoriful Islam gave away 42 and 45 runs respectively from their four overs while the only specialist spinner, left-armer Nasum Ahmed, gave away 38 runs from his four overs. All three went wicketless.
However, Mustafizur did manage to pick up the early wicket of Regis Chakabva and off-spinner Mosaddek Hossain bowled Craig Ervine for 21 as Zimbabwe were reduced to 43 for 2 inside seven overs.
But the Tigers completely lost the plot after that. Their bowlers were in disarray for the rest of the innings and that enabled the Zimbabwean batters to assert their authority on a sporting wicket in Harare.
It was probably when Nasum bowled the 12th over of the innings that the momentum shifted towards the hosts as the left-arm spinner bowled full tosses, balls down the leg side and short-pitched deliveries. He was hammered for 18 runs in that over.
The situation did not improve in the death overs either as the Tigers conceded 77 runs from the last five overs. Raza was the tormentor in chief, smashing Mustafizur for two boundaries and a maximum off the final over as Zimbabwe took their score past 200 -- only the third time that they achieved it in T20Is.
Keeping the upcoming Asia Cup and ICC T20 World Cup in mind, Bangladesh head coach Russell Domingo and the Tigers think-tank will surely expect better performances from the bowling unit.
The Bangladesh team management had previously informed that they wanted to bank on spinners, but after Nasum's performance, the question remains whether the spinners can have an impact on sporting tracks.
Nasum has picked up 28 wickets in 22 T20Is, but interestingly the left-arm spinner bagged 20 of them in Mirpur, where the pitch has historically offered great purchase to spinners.
But Bangladesh will be playing the T20 World Cup in Australia, where pitches are expected to be sporting. With less than three months to go until the mega-event, can the Tigers bowling unit gain that confidence?
SCORES IN BRIEF
ZIMBABWE: 205 for 3 in 20 overs. (Wessly 67 retired hurt, Raza 65 not out; Mustafizur 2-50, Mosaddek 1-21)
BANGLADESH: 188 for 6 in 20 overs. (Nurul 42 not out, Liton 32; Jongwe 2-34, Masakadza 1-23)
Result: Zimbabwe won by 17 runs.
Player-of-the-match: Sikandar Raza.