Vol. 5 Num 1046 Sat. May 12, 2007  

grameenphone ODI SERIES
Tigers charged up
Mashrafe set to return

A good game slipped away from their hands but the Bangladesh team were not ready to latch on repentance rather seemed charged up to bounce back in the three-match series against India when the two meet in today's second one-dayer at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium.

Rahul Dravid's men won the first battle by five wickets on Thursday but there had been something for Tigers in the loss, which home captain Habibul Bashar believes will work as inspiration.

But the fact is non-performing Bangladesh skipper, who wants to win the all-important toss also in the second match, should lead his side from the front to stay alive in the series against their next door neighbours, who have recharged after their World Cup disaster to come hard in the first game.

In the 2004 home series, Bangladesh also lost the first game but came back in the second to taste their first ever one-day success against India but Bashar was not interested to draw comparisons.

"In 2004 nobody expected us to win but now everyone expects it in every match. I firmly believe that we are capable of beating India. We had a definite chance in the first game but we could not grab it. My team put a tremendous fight and we were very close of victory, so we can even take inspiration from the game," said Bashar yesterday.

But what made the Bangladesh captain most happy is that pace spearhead Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, whose absence was badly felt in the series opener, looks all set to play today after recovering from backpain.

"Mashrafe is a very special player, so it's good news for the team that he is feeling better. We are very optimistic about him but we have not taken the final decision yet as team phisyo will give his final report in the morning. So we have not made the playing eleven yet," said a delighted Bashar.

If Mashrafe comes back, Shahadat Hossain will make way for the Narail Express. Meanwhile, Abdur Razzak looks a doubtful starter due to an attack of flu. If he is not fit enough to meet the demands of hot and humid conditions, all-rounder Forhad Reza will replace him.

Mashrafe took part in yesterday's training in Mirpur before watching the pitch where he looked quite well. There was hardly any evidence that the team's morale was down after a five-wicket loss.

"We just hope that we can get everyone fit tomorrow because the second match is very important for us as India took the lead in the series We will try hard to come back into the series but I don't want to brand it a do-or-die battle because we are not thinking on the series but only the second game," said Bashar.

"It is encouraging for us that despite the defeat, the mood of the camp is positive. We feel that we are in the right track. The strategy is simple as we want to play better cricket than the last game. For that we will try to do our basics rightly," he added.

The Tigers skipper was a bit surprised as his bowlers did not get the expected help from the wicket in the second part of the innings.

"The wicket looks more or less same. Actually it is very difficult to judge the nature of the black soil. To win the toss is important because it would be too difficult to bat second in these tough conditions."

Praising Javed Omar's effort in the first game, Bashar however said that he expected a big innings from young left-handed opener Tamim Iqbal.

"Tamim played a blistering innings against India in the World Cup. That is obviously a special knock. Yesterday's innings was also special because for the first time he played in front of such a big crowd in home. On both occasions, he set the tone although he could not carry the innings. But Tamim is more than capable of playing a big innings. So I expect some really big innings from him," he explained.

Mashrafe Bin Mortaza (L) drives the ball while vice-captain Mohammad Ashraful takes a breather in the background at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium yesterday. PHOTO: STAR