Tigers earn it the hardest wayAzad Majumder . Belfast
It was not a typical cliffhanger, neither the finish was very nail-biting as it may have seemed. During the course of the game there was always only one likeliest winner – Ireland.
A subdued batting at the start of the innings and average bowling by the spinners never allowed Bangladeshi fans to be very optimistic until the last over when the Irish failed to hold their nerve.
To give the responsibility of bowling the last over Bangladesh skipper Mushfiqur Rahim had only three choices left as his three main spinners had already completed their quota of four overs.
The best choice was perhaps Mashrafee bin Murtaza, a vastly experience bowler, but he has a history of messing things up in this kind of tight situations. His new-ball partner Abul Hassan was playing only his second international match, so it was also risky to gamble with him.
In such a circumstance Mushfiq did what any captain would have done. He opted for Mahmudullah, who conceded just four runs in the 18th over. Things became easier for the captain when the bowler, his deputy, himself showed confidence by coming forward.
It’s not that Mahmudullah bowled a great last over. His first three balls landed where he wanted them to land and that eventually proved to be the turning point. The fourth ball was a full toss and AD Poynter only managed to find Sakib al Hasan at long-on to leave the equation, needing two boundaries in as many balls.
New batsman Trent Johnston had to stand at the non-striking end as Poynter and Ed Joyce changed sides. Joyce had already spent a significant amount of time, but he was not at least the best hitter in the Ireland side which was proved when Mahmudullah survived from turning out to a villain despite bowling another full toss.
It was Tamim Iqbal who grabbed the catch at long-off as Joyce, the only Irish batsman not to have a strike rate of over 100, departed for 41 off 44 balls.
The win was unexpected to Tamim, who had a small bet with Sakib about the outcome of the game just three overs before the end of Ireland innings. The home side at that point required 23 runs with six wickets in hand, but Sakib was still hopeful of a positive result.
Tamim, however, was not that sure and took the opposite view. It was not until the catch that he realised he was going to be proved wrong. After taking the catch, which hurt his middle finger, all Mahmudullah needed was to bowl a legitimate delivery in the last ball and he did it quite comfortably.
It completed a remarkable comeback in the game in which Bangladesh had to fight against many odds. The wicket no longer suited them like the previous game as the balls were coming on to their waist height and some early movement made it difficult for the batsmen.
The most surprising element was the umpiring, which was controversial to say the least. In an era of UDRS there was no option for a television replay in this game, so the decisions of the on-field umpires were final.
The two local umpires seemed to have used it to the full benefit of the home side, who must feel lucky to have the run-out decision of Mushfiqur Rahim in their favour.
Mushfiq, who hit a six and four off consecutive balls, was given run-out when it seemed he covered the ground well enough and the decision had a telling effect in Bangladesh’s innings.
Later, a number of lbw appeals were also turned down, reminding the early days of cricket when the visiting teams used to suffer for poor umpiring. As run-out was always a fear and lbw was out of equation, Bangladesh had to earn their victory and they earned it the hardest way.
Luckily for the side it has some depth in batting and several options in bowling. Before Mahmudullah produced the unexpected bowling, Nasir Hossain came up with his usual flair in batting.
The Tigers never lost their way despite being reduced to 61-4 as Nasir staged a great recovery with his 50 from 33 balls. It was a challenging situation for any batsmen and Nasir loved it as he always does.
‘I always love this kind of challenge,’ Nasir said after his match winning performance. ‘Few wickets went down and we still had 10 overs in hand. For me it was an ideal situation to bat on. And I am happy that I was successful,’ he said.
The smile that Nasir had at the end of the game was hard to see, however, until the victory was assured.
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