Miraz brings his versatility to opening slot
Mehedi Hasan Miraz made it count in just his second appearance as an opener in one-day cricket with an authoritative century against Afghanistan in the Asia Cup in Lahore yesterday.
The Bangladesh team management were all at sea after a disastrous batting display in the first game against Sri Lanka, and as has often recently been the case, Miraz turned up during a crisis. The team management could not keep faith on Tanzid Hasan Tamim after just one game, giving away the frailty of their usual plans but in Miraz they found a saviour. The determination was once again at display.
After an innings that lasted just two minutes short of three hours, Miraz came away, retired hurt on 112 after a hand cramp. During that knock he showed the flexibility he can provide in his roles because his role has transitioned drastically.
Earlier he may have been asked to avert crisis scenarios down the order, as he did against Afghanistan last year during the highest seventh-wicket partnership for Bangladesh with Afif Hossain. This time the crisis was at the top simply because of the lack of stability in the opening slot.
The last time a Bangladesh opener had struck a ton was 27 matches ago when Liton Das dictated proceedings in Chattogram with a 136-run knock. In the last series at home, when Liton's bat did not talk as much, the Tigers fell to a 2-1 loss against Afghanistan. It was apparent that he was the only option that worked recently in countering Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Rashid Khan's threat while Fazalhaq Farooqi terrorised the top-order.
Without Liton, Bangladesh needed a right-hander to counter Mujeeb's early spells given that the Afghan spinner is a brilliant matchup against lefties. Instead of picking Anamul Haque -- a specialist opener -- the team management preferred Miraz's all-round capabilities.
The pitch was a flat one, but the Afghan bowlers recently have had an edge over the Bangladesh batters. Miraz played well within himself, which is one of his key abilities as a batter. He understood the role of being able to see off Mujeeb and stick it out till the 30th over. Miraz never overreached.
He played with the straight face of the bat when required, and as Farooqi sprayed it around during a wayward spell, Miraz punished. Soon the glorious cover drive against Mujeeb showed that he didn't need to force the issue. The glides, the cuts and drives soon came into view as Miraz got in with the acceleration from the Powerplay, already having a telling impact on the team. He came down the crease to hit Mohammad Nabi for a six, then waited for Rashid's delivery to glide one through backward point.
The inside-out drive for six off Mujeeb, having secured his second ODI ton, was probably the best of the lot. Miraz now has his second ODI ton along with as many fifties but most importantly, he gives Bangladesh an option at the top -- one they can rely on. Miraz's ability to be that versatile adds a different dimension to the team, and the launchpad he enacted with Najmul Hossain Shanto let Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim play freely. The move also opened up slots for Shamim Hossain and Afif Hossain's inclusion at seven and eight.
More importantly, as Shanto -- his partner during a massive unbroken 194-run stand -- put it, "Coming into the top of the order wasn't easy but he showed his character."
That character of taking on a challenge was once again on view.