Rusty but good enough
There was always a possibility that the Bangladesh batsmen, playing their first ODI in nearly 11 months, would bank on their greater experience to cover up any rust to get over the line in the first ODI against Afghanistan, which took place at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium yesterday.
That is pretty much what happened as Bangladesh were bundled out for 265 off the last ball of the innings after winning the toss, a score that was just about par for the conditions. What was below par for most of the first innings on a good pitch was the level of play from both teams.
Tamim Iqbal top-scored with 80 but he, along with most other batsmen with the possible exception of Shakib Al Hasan, will probably agree that there were things that they could have done better.
Apart from a lucky escape when a sliced cut off medium-pacer Mirwais Ashraf burst through the hands of backward point when he was on 30, Tamim's batting featured the serenity that has now become customary for the leaner, meaner version of the left-hander that fans have been seeing since late last year. He eschewed risk for the most part while relying on his natural ability to find boundaries as he built a solid first-wicket partnership of 83 with Imrul Kayes after Soumya Sarkar's first-over dismissal.
Imrul hit a streaky 53-ball 37 and his dismissal by Mohammad Nabi in the 19th over brought in Mahmudullah Riyad.
Riyad accompanied Tamim to his fifty, which the left-hander reached off his 63rd ball with his seventh four in the 22nd over. Riyad exhibited just what kind of touch he is in when he hit the first six of the innings -- a well-timed down the wicket flourish over long off in the 25th over. At that point Bangladesh had reached 121 for two with two star batsmen in form. With England next on the menu for Bangladesh, there could perhaps have been thoughts of registering 300-plus scores as a matter of habit, but the approach did not reflect that.
The pair added 41 more runs in the next 10 overs before Tamim was caught at long off trying to force the pace. Riyad then stepped it up, hitting two fours and a massive straight six in the 38th over, bowled by Dawlat Zadran. Afghan skipper Asghar Stanikzai then joined his teammates in what was a quite ordinary fielding display when he dropped an absolute sitter at cover, off the bat of Riyad in the next over. Riyad, who was on 58 then, could not capitalise on his luck as he was dismissed four runs later, caught at the fine leg boundary off Nabi. The score then was 214 for four in the 41st over, and a 280-plus total seemed very possible.
Shakib, who came in after Tamim's departure, hit a 40-ball 48 with three fours and he was the main reason that Bangladesh reached 265. Mushfiqur Rahim could not unleash the big shots and was bowled by leg-spinner Rashid Khan for six. Sabbir, batting at number seven, was trapped in front in Rashid's next over before Shakib became the last of the regular batsmen to depart after being caught in the deep off Zadran, who cleaned up the tail to finish with expensive but fruitful figures of four for 73.
It was an innings that relied on the quality of Bangladesh's batsman, but it was also an effort that showed the cobwebs of not playing for some time. It was eventually good enough, but fans will hope that they shake off the cobwebs soon because it may not always be the case.