Shanto’s purple patch continues
Najmul Hossain Shanto appears to have finally turned himself into a mainstay in the Bangladesh top order. The left-handed batter scored his second ODI hundred in the Tigers' Asia Cup group game against Afghanistan in Lahore yesterday, with his first ODI ton coming just six games ago.
Over the past year, Shanto proved himself to be a different kind of batter -- someone who plays with responsibility and revels in his consistency.
Before succumbing to an unfortunate run-out, Shanto scored a 105-ball 104, laced with nine boundaries and two maximums. He stitched a 194-run stand with Mehedi Hasan Miraz, who also scored a century after being promoted to the opening slot as Bangladesh posted a mammoth 334 for five -- the Tigers' highest-ever total in the Asia Cup.
Shanto was the lone fighter with the bat for the Tigers against Sri Lanka in their Asia Cup opener as well, making 89 in a game in which Bangladesh folded for just 164.
After helping Bangladesh avert utter humiliation in the first game, Shanto walked into bat at number four for the first time in his international career when the Tigers had lost two quick wickets in a must-win with the Super Four stage at stake.
An aggressive and fearless Shanto changed the scenario of the game from there on, utilising the batting-friendly conditions at the Gaddafi Stadium to counter attack a strong Afghan bowling attack featuring world-class spinners Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman.
Making his intentions clear, the southpaw got off the mark with a boundary when he placed Karim Janat over the mid-wicket region. Allowing Miraz to adjust to his new role as an opener, the onus was on Shanto to play the shots and stay on course for a big total.
He reached fifty off 57 deliveries in style, pulling Falahaq Farooqi for a maximum.
Farooqi, the seamer who tormented Bangladesh in recent times, could never impose himself. Shanto took on the pacer, smashing him for a six and a four in the 33rd over that yielded 17 runs. Farooqi never returned to bowl in the game, remaining wicketless conceding 53 in just six overs.
Both Shanto and Miraz complemented each other as they tackled the Afghan spin threat with authority, making it the most expensive outing for the Rashid-Mujeeb duo against the Tigers in ODIs.
"We weren't worried about the wickets [that Bangladesh had lost], we played according to the situation and the merit of the ball. Miraz showed his character and batted really well," Shanto said during the innings break.
In his last game, Shanto was dismissed just 11 runs shy off a century trying to accelerate at the death to help the Tigers add some crucial runs at the death. Even yesterday, the left-hander smashed star leggie Rashid for two consecutive boundaries, moving from 89 to the three-figure mark in just five deliveries. It only reflected Shanto's mentality of putting the team ahead of personal glory -- something that makes the 25-year-old stand out from the rest.