Vol. 5 Num 849 Sat. October 14, 2006  

ICC Champions Trophy
Nafees silences critics

There were whispers in the audience whether Shahriar Nafees was getting too many awards at the Bangladesh Cricket Board Award Night last month. The left-handed batsman, however, quieted the doubters and made everyone believe yesterday that he has not forgotten his main duty, to score runs for the team.

The 20-year old opener, who was named vice-captain for the tournament following his impressive first season in international cricket which also got him the best cricketer and best batsman awards of the year, rewrote his name in the record book as the first Bangladeshi batsman to score two one-day international hundreds.

Riding on his composed 161-ball 123 not out, Bangladesh reached a decent 231 for six in their share of 50 overs against Zimbabwe in the ICC Champions Trophy preliminaries after the Africans had invited them to bat in the day-night match at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium.

On way to the highest one-day individual score for the country, he also became only the second batsman to carry the bat after Javed Omar who achieved the same feat in the 2000 Asia Cup at home. Nafees's knock was featured with 17 boundaries and an over boundary.

"I'm very much aware of the fact that I have to retain my place in the team first and scoring runs is the only way to do that. So vice-captaincy and other things are simply secondary issues to me," the young batsman had told time and again when asked whether he would lose his way due to too many accolades.

It seemed that Nafees started his innings where he had left off against Zimbabwe during his maiden ODI century (118 not out) at Harare two months back.

Nafees, who relied on his timing, struggled in the match against Sri Lanka in Mohali making only five but looked good in their disappointing show against the West Indies in Jaipur although his 38-run innings finally could not bear fruit for his side.

But his second hundred in 28 ODI appearances -- the fifth by a Bangladeshi batsman -- salvaged his side in what is billed as a prestige match after both have been ousted from contention for a second round berth.

Nafees, however, was lucky to survive a chance on nought when Elton Chigumbura floored a tough catch at short cover. He was also dropped after going past the magical three-figure mark.

The Tigers were reduced to 26-2 by the tenth over following the quick dismissals of Rajin Saleh (6) and in-form Aftab Ahmed (3) but young left-hander Sakib Al Hasan once again proved his worth as a potential innings builder.

The 19-year old Sakib, who made a duck in the previous match, joined Nafees for the third wicket and shared 84 runs which not only repaired the damage but also gave a platform for a late assault. On 36, he tried to cut the ball but only edged it to Eddie Rainsford at backward point for a simple catch off Tafadzwa Kamungozi.

Under pressure captain Habibul Bashar, who was dismissed for back to back ducks in the competition which cast doubts over his fitness, however tried his best and took the responsibility during a 40-ball 30. Bashar added 80 runs with Nafees for the fourth wicket association that played a vital role taking the Tigers beyond the 200-mark.

Basahr smote four boundaries before being bowled by Rainsford while trying to accelerate.

Mashrafee Bin Mortuza and Mohammad Rafique were promoted in the batting order as debutant Mehrab Hossain did not get the chance to bat but the ploy did not work as Bangladesh failed to impress in the slog overs, having scored only 33 in the last five overs.

Zimbabwe new ball bowlers Rainsford and Anthony Ireland, who began with maidens, took two wickets each.

ZIMBABWE'S BOGEY: Bangladesh opener Shahriar Nafees raises his arms in celebration after reaching his century in the Champions Trophy qualifying match against Zimbabwe at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur on Friday. PHOTO: AFP