“What was that? They batted like they were trying to protect their place, make enough runs so that they don’t lose their place in the team.”
This was the response of Bangladesh team director Khaled Mahmud after the Tigers lost the third Twenty20 International against Zimbabwe, which resulted in their first ever series defeat in the format against the Zimbabweans.
Mahmud was irate, and rightfully so, after the team fell 10 runs short while chasing a modest target of 157. Mahmud wasn’t happy with the batters’ approach at the middle, as according to him they were trying to rotate the strike when big hits were required.
Bangladesh, however, was trying out a newlook team in the T20I series. Although they panicked and brought back former skipper Mahmudullah back in the team for the third match with the series in the balance, it was still a team missing a number of big names in the batting order.
The lack of experience in the batting department could be presented as a reason behind that timid batting display.
But the Tigers have no scope to present that as an excuse for their shocking five-wicket defeat in the first One-Day International (ODI) against Zimbabwe on Friday. Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim returned for the ODIs, adding valuable experience to the batting department.
The defeat was even more surprising given the fact that Bangladesh had posted 303-2 in their 50 overs, with the help of four half-centuries.
But their total proved to be insufficient in the end, as centuries from SIkander Raza and Innocent Kaia took the hosts home with 10 balls to spare.
ODI skipper Tamim Iqbal pointed at Bangladesh’s poor fielding as the main reason behind the defeat, as the Tigers dropped no fewer than four catches.
“I have been saying that we have been dropping a lot of catches so it had to cost us at some point. This was probably the day. Previously, we have got away with it,” Tamim said in a press conference after the match.
But the opener glossed over the fact that Bangladesh scored just 39 runs in the final five overs despite having wickets in hand and a well set Mushfiqur Rahim and the experienced Mahmudullah at the middle.
Mahmudullah came to the crease in the 46th over, and managed to find the boundary thrice to score an unbeaten 20 off 12 balls.
But at the other end, Mushfiq scored just 11 runs off the final 12 balls he faced. It wasn’t like Mushfiq was struggling to score runs from the start, as he reached 41 off 37 balls. But after entering the 40s, his scoring rate dipped and he eventually finished on 52 not out off 49 balls.
It’s a little presumptuous to say that Mushfiq slowed down his scoring rate intentionally as he approached a personal milestone, putting his personal glory ahead of the team’s needs.
But it’s hard to think of any other reason other than that, when trying to explain what happened earlier in the day, when Tamim was approaching his own milestone.
Tamim became the only Bangladeshi to reach 8,000 ODI runs on Friday. He reached the milestone in the 24th over when his score reached 57. But it took the opener 81 balls to score those runs.
But Tamim’s innings wasn’t slow paced from the start. In fact, he reached 40 off just 49 balls. But once the milestone got in sight, the left-hander drastically slowed down his scoring rate.
He took 32 balls to score those remaining 17 runs and soon after completing 8,000 runs, departed while playing a rash shot, perhaps in an attempt to make up for his pedestrian batting in the previous eight overs.
Tamim and Mushfiq were not fighting for their places. No one would question their position in the ODI team had they not scored half-centuries. On the other hand, Anamul Haque, one of the four half-centurions on Friday, was fighting for his position on Friday after poor performances in the preceding T20I series.
But the right-hander, who was playing an ODI after over two years, understood the match situation, took his chances, and ended up scoring 73 off 62 balls.
But Tamim and Mushfiq, two of Bangladesh’s most experienced and reliable batters in the 50-over format, couldn’t play according to the match situation. Both of their scoring rates dipped as they approached a personal milestone.
Whether it was coincidental or intentional, no one can say with absolute certainty other than them. But as the team is staring at the possibility of losing an ODI series against Zimbabwe for the first time since 2013, Tamim and Mushfiq can at least celebrate, albeit secretly, their personal achievements.