Tigers shine after rain
Win 3rd ODI and share series 1-1
Bishwajit Roy from Kandy
Nasir Hossain (L) and Shohag Gazi start an unbridled celebration for Tigers in the Lions’ den yesterday. Photo: AFP
It has so far been a tour of extreme emotions, and that was best encapsulated in the dying stages of the rain-interrupted deciding match of the ODI series. With Bangladesh needing 23 from the last three overs and with five wickets in hand, Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews threw the ball to the only man who could make a difference — slinging fast bowler Lasith Malinga.
And for a while that seemed an eternity for Bangladesh fans, Malinga — who after resumption of play had only one over out of 13.2 to make a difference — seemed to have clinched it, taking two wickets while conceding only six runs. But the Tigers had a game changer of their own watching Malinga’s carnage from the non-striker’s end. Nasir Hossain, through three matchless shots under crippling pressure, won the match with one over remaining and three wickets to spare.
In the process Bangladesh won their first ODI match on Sri Lankan soil, their fourth against the hosts overall, and most importantly won a share of the three-ODI series, which they levelled 1-1 at the Pallekele International Stadium yesterday.
Yet it could have been so different when Sri Lanka, courtesy of another Tillakaratne Dilshan special, racked up the small matter of 302 for nine after being asked to bat first. The tourists started their chase in the assured manner that has formed a refreshing new chapter of Bangladesh cricket. Having been plagued by injuries that saw several first-choice players — Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Mashrafe Bin Mortaza among them — ruled out and suffered a demoralising eight-wicket defeat in the first ODI it would have been understandable for them to give up hope when faced with such a daunting task. Even while fielding their weakest attack in recent memory, the spinners led by Abdur Razzak pulled the Sri Lankans back to a manageable total, with the veteran left-armer taking a five-for and becoming the first Bangladeshi to 200 ODI wickets.
Openers Mohammad Ashraful and Anamul Haque met the challenge head on and put on 77 runs in 12.5 overs before Ashraful was trapped in front by off-spinner Sachithra Senanayake. The Sri Lankan weather then intervened and played Bangladesh a generous hand. When after more than two hours the covers were taken off, the target was reduced to 183 off 27 overs, with Bangladesh needing 105 more from 13.2 overs with nine wickets in hand.
With the match effectively having turned into a 13-over shootout, Anamul and Jahurul Islam were bundles of nervous energy. Jahurul hit two of the first four balls after resumption for boundaries, but in the 16th over Anamul — who had batted well to get to 40 — lost his cool and holed out to mid off. More madness followed as in the 18th over Jahurul was caught behind trying to hit his second boundary in as many balls. Skipper Mushfiqur Rahim was then run out attempting a suicidal run. There seemed to be one cool head in the middle, and it was resting on Nasir’s shoulders.
After Mahmudullah Riyad’s departure to an ill-advised reverse sweep with Bangladesh still needing 39 from 33, Nasir was joined by young Mominul Haque for the second key partnership of the innings after the opening stand. The pair added 22 in three overs before Mominul became the first of Malinga’s double strike. With 17 needed off the last two and the Malinga threat in the past, the ice-cool Nasir walloped the first ball of the penultimate over from Thisara Perera through extra cover for a boundary, before teeing off with identical lofted boundaries over midwicket off the second and fourth balls of the over.
With four needed off eight, the match threw up a final piece of drama — Nasir slashed a short delivery to third man where Kulasekara caught it and threw it back onto the field milliseconds before crossing the rope. Three needed off seven. Gazi’s top edge did the rest.
It certainly has been a tour of extreme emotions thus far, with only the sole T20I on Sunday left. Injuries grabbed the headlines as much as the Tigers’ commendable showing in the Test series, and the defeat in the first ODI and the subsequent washout of the second game seemed to have taken the fight out of the visitors. But as this team have shown time and again over the past year or two, challenges are meant to be overcome, and yesterday Nasir and Co overcame a stiff challenge in fine style.