Bowlers pull together in T20I win
Bangladesh assailed an Afghan side known for their T20 prowess in the first of the two-match T20I series at Mirpur's Sher-e-Bangla and the margin of victory will surely bring some relief in the Tigers' camp before the final T20I on March 5.
Left-arm spinner Nasum Ahmed was the architect of the Tigers' victory with four wickets inside the Powerplay after the batters, having won the toss, managed to put on 155 for eight.
Afghan batters, known for their strokeplay, found Nasum hard to get away from early on and his four overs on the trot broke the visitors' resistance as they were bowled out for 94.
Nasum finished with four wicket in four overs, conceding just 10 runs. Shakib Al Hasan chipped in with two wickets for 18, accounting for key middle-order figures of Mohammad Nabi and Najibullah Zadran before Shoriful Islam's three for 29 ended the Afghan innings and saw Bangladesh record their biggest-margin of victory in T20Is against a Test-Playing nation. Overall, it was their third-largest T20I win.
But the fact that Nasum bowled so well should not take focus away from what was an average batting display, with only Liton Das having any real impact in the innings. Bangladesh packed their line-up with eight batters, but that only displayed the lack of clarity they have in the format.
Opener Mohammad Naim's struggles at the top continued while Munim Shahriar showed some merit on his debut. He at least attempted to hit boundaries, but the rest of the batting line-up did not merit the kind of batting depth that the Tigers had.
In Mushfiqur's absence, the roles were jumbled. Each batter tried to go after deliveries according to the match scenario, but a governing idea was missing. While Liton played breezily during a brilliant 44-ball 60, the rest did not support his effort.
The Tigers' governing philosophy in building their innings in the format had so far revolved around having a top-order batter play the anchor role. Here, Liton's start handed him the role of anchor but without clarity about a batting plan, it was Liton himself who also had to try and accelerate.
If the in-form batter in the top-order cannot play freely, the concept of roles in the batting order become insignificant. No one got in enough except Afif Hossain, who struck 25. A middling score may be good enough at Mirpur, but in terms of the overall motto of T20 cricket around the world, Bangladesh's batting philosophy left a lot to be desired.
While it would have been prudent to let loose a Yasir Ali or Mahedi Hasan to put further pressure on Afghanistan after Liton's classy innings was paying dividends, other who came before them such as Shakib or Mahmudullah neither carried the innings forward nor provided the necessary impetus.
The lower-middle order did not find enough deliveries to get momentum late on and, as Liton perished in the 17th over, there was no power-hitter who could produce carnage in such a short time at the crease.
Mahmudullah said on the eve of the game that they would look at scores of 150 to 160. That sort of total will not be fit for the format going forward, especially with a World Cup to come this year.
Packing the line-up provides insurance, but it also delivers the message of playing it safe and that cannot be the modus operandi in a smash and grab format.