Magical Mushy turning over a new leaf

Bangladesh batting stalwart Mushfiqur Rahim plays a scoop shot during his splendid 60-ball 100 against Ireland in the second ODI of the three-match series at the Sylhet International Cricket Stadium yesterday. [Below] Following the end of the Bangladesh innings, the rain came pouring down to wash out the match. Photo: FIROZ AHMED

Everything he hit seemed to turn into something special, but what was even more special was how Mushfiqur Rahim kept doing it over and over as he notched the fastest ODI ton by a Bangladeshi.

If the seniors' role, especially after Mahmudullah Riyad was 'rested' ahead of the World Cup, was in sharp focus, Mushfiqur's new approach was giving the Tigers a new definition.

The ODI series against Ireland had been no more than a cemetery for a number of near-tons. Both Shakib Al Hasan and Towhid Hridoy fell in the nervous nineties in the first ODI and yesterday, in the second ODI, Liton Das and Najmul Hossain Shanto also departed after scoring 70-odd runs.

Mushfiqur entered the crease in the 34th over after Shanto's dismissal with the idea to put up a partnership and help the team to a big total. He started his innings traditionally, his first boundary coming off a trademark sweep against Matthew Humphreys.

But it soon became apparent that Mushfiqur was turning it up a notch.

The innings brought to mind his knock against Sri Lanka in the 2018 Nidahas Trophy in chase of a big T20 total. It was like turning back the clock, but this time Mushy's progression towards an aggressive approach was clearer, continuing from the last game.

Mushfiqur had tried to push the tempo in the first ODI against Ireland when he made a 26-ball 44. This time, he was getting bolder with every delivery.

Coming in at number six, he showed the aggressive approach Bangladesh appear to be trying to tap into in the middle-overs. When he stepped out to pacer Curtis Campher in the 39th over and bludgeoned it over the ropes for six over cover, the confidence in his newfound approach appeared to be bearing fruit and he did not look back.

Mark Adair had been effective early on in the innings, but Mushy cracked one through point in his 43rd over, driving a full toss through cover before disdainfully dispatching a cut that went all the way for six --back-to-back deliveries that showed his domination.

Next over, Campher was smashed over cover, down on one knee, the ball almost going for six as Mushfiqur reached 7,000 ODI runs, as if the landmark needed some special recognition.

The scoop and the glide over third man came out after a landmark half-century. The array of strokes, hitting one through cover and then another similar delivery being scooped or dispatched through point, kept Ireland from ever getting it right.

Improvisation and class were all part and parcel of the tremendous innings, but with three balls remaining, there was no way Mushfiqur was letting go of his momentum.

He moved from 93 to 97 with a scoop of sheer cheek in the 50th over. He then moved to 99 with a flick, running an easy double, before just nudging the final delivery of the innings for a single that completed his ninth ODI ton off only 60 deliveries, the fastest in Bangladesh's ODI history, moving ahead of Shakib's 63-ball effort in 2009 against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo.

If intent was the means, Mushy found it. And the dynamics Bangladesh are looking for in ODIs may just be on the way ahead of the World Cup.