A game full of surprisesAzad Majumder . Belfast
On any other day it could have been a dream game for a fast bowler. The conditions looked perfect for swing bowling with rain pouring down almost every alternate hour.
But with just a simple look Mashrafee bin Murtaza realised that it was not going to be his day. If he still had any confusion they all perished just after he bowled his first over in the Ireland innings that cost him 10 runs.
‘It looked a more turning wicket than Chittagong,’ Mashrafee (laughing) said on Thursday. ‘We thanked Ireland almost immediately as it provided our spinners some massive turn. We had never expected anything like this,’ said the paceman.
Mashrafee went wicketless, but no one in Belfast had reasons to worry about it as Bangladesh’s spinners surpassed all expectations to crush Ireland by 71 runs in the first Twenty20 International of the three-match series.
Left-arm spinner Elias Sunny appeared as the biggest beneficiary when he claimed 5-13, the first five-wicket haul for any Bangladeshi in a Twenty20 International, to restrict Ireland to 119-8 in their 20 overs.
Ireland knew about the threat coming from Sakib al Hasan and also had their home works done for Abdur Razzak, the two regular left-arm spinners in Bangladesh squad for the last few years.
But they had no clue about Sunny, who was playing his first match against them in any format. And Sunny, who broke into the national team only last year, took full advantage of it.
After two wayward overs from Mashrafee and Abul Hasan, who was welcomed in international cricket by Irish captain William Porterfield with two fours and a six in his first three balls, skipper Mushfiqur Rahim had no choice but to introduce his spinners.
The result came almost immediately as Sakib conceded just five runs in his first two overs while Razzak provided the breakthroughs from the other end. When Sunny came to the attack he made an instant impact.
He took two wickets in his first three balls and after that Bangladesh never looked back in the game.
‘It was really a surprising wicket for us,’ man of the match Sunny later told reporters. ‘The wicket was even flatter than what we had in the warm-up match.’
Sunny, however, did not expect to win the man of the match award despite his five wickets in four overs as the game saw a more sublime effort earlier in Bangladesh’s innings.
Sakib al Hasan chose this game to hit his first Twenty20 fifty, which came in a very graceful manner. Persistent rain made the outfield very slugging and batsmen needed some extra efforts to get their runs.
Sakib played exactly according to the need of the hour by taking the aerial route for most of his nine boundaries. It helped him surpass his previous best in T20, 47 against Pakistan in 2010 ICC World Twenty20, and reach his maiden fifty.
While Sakib’s batting was little surprising, someone who was not following Bangladesh’s recent warm-up matches, his batting order at least came as a surprise.
He batted in an unusual one down position, something which he was doing since the first warm-up match in Mirpur before coming to Ireland. He hit 97 off 41 balls in the first warm-up match batting at number three, but it was remained to be seen how he fare in this position in a competitive game.
Sakib showed he is well worth of taking this unsettled position, hitting almost at his will. It must have given the other batsmen some confidence and the end result was there for everyone to see.
Bangladesh assembled 190-5 in 20 overs, their highest in T20 International, which made victory all but assured before they even took the ball in hand.
‘We were confident of a win once we made 190 runs, although we still had to bowl well as they scored 30 runs in the first three overs,’ Sakib told reporters.
Unlike others, Sakib, however, was not surprised seeing the wicket.
‘It rained almost everyday so they [Ireland] did not have the chance to remove the covers. May be this could be the reason for the turning wicket,’ said Sakib.
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