Shakib clear on World Cup plans despite defeat
A difficult tour of New Zealand ended in defeat for Bangladesh as the Tigers fell to a seven-wicket loss to Pakistan in their final match of the tri-nation series in Christchurch on Thursday.
Bangladesh lost all four of their games, two each against Pakistan and the hosts, illustrating numerous issues the Tigers are facing in the shortest format ahead of the T20 World Cup in Australia. Yet, T20 skipper Shakib Al Hasan assured that they were clear on their plans for the marquee event.
"We played our best game today. We got the preparation we wanted from this series. Now it's up to us to express ourselves in the World Cup and do something good for the country. We're clear on our plans for the World Cup," Shakib said in the post-match interview.
Thursday's loss to Pakistan also prolonged Bangladesh's wait for a successful T20 outing in New Zealand. The Tigers have never won a T20I in the nation in 11 attempts.
Batting first, Bangladesh were again plagued by their opening woes as the latest combination of Soumya Sarkar and Najmul Hossain Shanto failed to click. Soumya departed after scoring four while the latter could only muster 12 runs off 15 deliveries.
It was only on the back of half-centuries from Liton Das and Shakib that Bangladesh were able to reach a total that is usually beyond their brand of T20 cricket. 173 for six was Bangladesh's highest total of the series but they will still feel like they missed out on a few runs, considering the batsters who came after Shakib and Liton managed just 15 runs off 17 balls.
Shakib, who hit seven fours and three sixes during a 42-ball 68, seemed to have taken a leaf out of Kiwi batter Devon Conway's book, picking the gaps with immaculate precision, minimising dot balls and hitting the long ball when it was there to be hit.
"We could have scored a few more runs. We only got three runs in the final over whereas we expected 12 to 15. But I don't want to point out negatives. We played really well in the middle overs, where we were lacking, so that's a very good sign," Shakib added.
His partner in the 88-run partnership, Liton, played some typically sumptuous shots during his 42-ball 69, which included six fours and two sixes. Liton did all that following a quad strain that saw him lying on the ground in anguish.
In reply, Pakistan openers Babar Azam and Rizwan Ahmed went on their merry way despite a sluggish start. The two put on a 101-run opening stand before Babar was dismissed for a 40-ball 55 by pacer Hasan Mahmud.
However, Pakistan will owe some thanks to Saifuddin, who dropped Rizwan when he was on 32. The opener took his team almost all the way across the line before being dismissed in the 19th over after scoring 69 off 56 balls, leaving Pakistan's middle order with nine runs to get from seven balls.
Despite Rizwan's anchor approach, Bangladesh were hard done by a blitz from left-handed batter Mohammad Nawaz, who made sure to eradicate his dismal bowling figures from memory by smashing the winning runs during a 20-balls 45 that included five fours and one six.
With out-of-form left-arm pacer Mustafizur Rahman being rested, pacers Hasan Mahmud, Taskin Ahmed, and Shoriful Islam had decent outings with the ball. But the fourth seaming option was taken to the cleaners as Saifuddin conceded 53 runs from 3.5 overs.
Shakib too had an off day with the ball and went for 28 in three overs, including a 17-run over where he was taken on by Nawaz.
With the World Cup looming, Bangladesh still have a lot of unanswered questions regarding the squad. While changes seem imminent, Bangladesh have at least managed to test out the whole squad, giving Shakib and the team management a better idea about their plans for the World Cup.