‘Shoriful, you will win us the match’

“I told him just one thing, even if you don’t make connection with the ball, start running. You will win us the match.”

Towhid Hridoy and Shoriful Islam celebrate after completing the win for Bangladesh against Afghanistan in the first T20 at the Sylhet International Cricket Stadium on 14 July 2023AFP

Towhid Hridoy hardly had any time to savour the victory. He ran to the dressing room while celebrating the win, changed his jersey and came out for the post-match presentation ceremony. After collecting the player of the match award in the ceremony, he had to go to the press conference. All of this happened in around five minutes.

At the press conference, this young batsman was having a hard time to piece together what had just happened. From the clutches of defeat, he took Bangladesh to the doorsteps of victory as the Tigers managed to secure a win despite a hattrick from Karim Janat in the last over of the match. Hridoy, however, had to see this drama unfold in the final over from the non-striker’s end.

But he had the belief that Bangladesh will win. While answering the first question in the press conference, Hridoy said, “I had faith in everyone. Taskin (Ahmed) bhai, Nasum (Ahmed) bhai, Shoriful (Islam) – all of them can bat really well. Taskin bhai hit two fours against England in a match like this and won it for us. I had faith in Shoriful. I’ve been playing with him since the Under-19s. I told him just one thing, even if you don’t make connection with the ball, start running. You will win us the match.”

Towhid Hridoy was named the player of the match

There was another reason behind Hridoy’s courage, “I was calm. Because we needed just two runs. If the ball touches the bat even once, 1-2 runs could be scored off of that. I tried to remain calm at all times. I tried to help my partners with as much information as I could. I told them what I thought the bowler would do.”

Shamim Hossain’s innings also deserves a special mention. His 33-run innings off 25 balls gave Bangladesh a crucial 73-run partnership. Hridoy and Shamim have been playing together since their days in age-level cricket and their chemistry was apparent to all in the national team’s jersey as well, “I told Shamim just one thing. You and I, both are batsmen. We have won our sides many matches from similar situations in domestic cricket. As we bat in the middle-order, if we can bring the momentum to our favour in one or two overs, we can change the complexion of the match. In the end that’s what happened. In two overs, the momentum shifted.”

Towhid Hridoy and Shamim Hossain's partnership laid the foundation for victory

The two overs Hridoy was referring to came against Afghan pacers Azmatullah Omarzai and Fazalhaq Farooqi while Shamim and Hridoy batted calculatedly against the Afghan spinners.

“We had a plan. They have the best spin attack in the world. We tried to not take unnecessary risks. Everything went according to our plan. We tried to stay positive… We just tried to play according to the situation,” said Hridoy.

And this positivity led Bangladesh to their biggest successful chase against Afghanistan in T20s. But more than the record, for Hridoy this victory held extra importance for the way the team won, “Not just against Afghanistan, winning a match like this against any opponent will make a team feel confident. These sorts of matches don’t come around often. As I was there till the end and was able to finish the match, it feels great. Such opportunities don’t come around often. Making use of such an opportunity is a huge deal for any batsman. I feel good that I was able to do it.”

Hridoy, however, didn’t hog the spotlight all for himself and gave credit to the entire team, especially the bowlers for restricting Afghanistan around the 150-run mark, “If you notice from the start, Taskin bhai and all the other bowlers started really well. Everyone fielded well as well.”

The crux of what Hridoy was saying was that whenever Bangladesh win, it’s the result of a team effort. The same happened in Sylhet on Friday.

*This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ashfaq-Ul-Alam Niloy