The Bangladesh team surpassed all expectations and confounded all pre-series predictions as they convincingly beat the West Indies by seven wickets in the first of five ODIs at the Sheikh Abu Naser Stadium in Khulna yesterday.
No one expected a team with four debutants and without their best player to pull off a win against a team decidedly stronger on paper, much less one with 58 balls to spare. The bowlers, with the ever-more-impressive debutant Shohag Gazi leading the way with the best returns by a Bangladeshi debutant, set up the victory with a spirited and disciplined effort that the West Indians had no answer to, being skittled out for 199 in 46.5 overs.
The victory was dedicated by captain Mushfiqur Rahim to the victims of the garments factory fire in Ashulia and Manzarul Islam Rana, the Test cricketer from Khulna who lost his life in a motorcycle accident on March 16, 2007.
The Tigers also had to overcome the considerable handicap of playing without all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan for the first time in 83 matches and comprehensively outplayed an opposition that was thought to be streets ahead in terms of talent and experience. Those assumptions were based on West Indies' 2-0 whitewash in the Test series, but the Tigers put the Test results behind them and picked up from where they had left off in ODI cricket -- their rabble-rousing performance in the Asia Cup in March.
It was almost as if eight months had not passed since. For opener Tamim Iqbal it may as well not have as he gave the Tigers the perfect start to the modest chase with a 51-ball 58, his fifth successive half-century dating back to the first match of the Asia Cup against Pakistan. To the very second ball he stepped out to off-spinner Marlon Samuels and lofted him over mid-off for four, stamping his authority early much like his West Indian counterpart Chris Gayle likes to do.
He put on 88 for the first wicket with debutant Anamul Haque at close to a run-a-ball, and while Anamul took his time and struggled early against the pace of Roach, Tamim was in imperious form, treating all bowlers with disdain. Before being caught at point off a bad ball from Sunil Narine, he hit eight fours and a six, the standout shot being a unique looking slash in front of point off Roach that carried for six.
Tamim's departure expectedly slowed down the pace of scoring but it did not cause any jitters. Anamul, on 26 at that point carried on the good work. His growing confidence was signalled by a hook off Caribbean skipper Darren Sammy that perfectly bisected the square leg and fine leg fielders. Another four in the punishing shot off Sammy in the 23rd over was however followed by a top-edged pull which the West Indian skipper pouched in his big hands.
But the measure of Bangladesh's maturity, especially in the ODI format came in the fact that they did not panic even when the West Indians scented blood. Naeem Islam and Nasir Hossain carried the score to 157 before Nasir departed to a cut straight to Kieron Pollard at point off Andre Russel. Captain Mushfiqur Rahim came in and supported Naeem as they crossed the finish line in the 41st over without much fuss.
Earlier, West Indies were met with a disciplined bowling effort by Bangladesh opening bowlers Mashrafe Mortaza and Abul Hasan. Mashrafe stuck to an off stump line to the dangerous Gayle, beating the big West India on numerous occasions. At the other end Hasan bowled with good pace and troubled Lendl Simmons, who looked scratchy throughout the innings.
Gayle threatened to break free when in the fifth over he smashed Mashrafe over long on for six before guiding two poor deliveries that followed to the fine leg fence. Other than that over however, the Narail fast bowler was immaculate in line and length finishing his first spell with the wicket of Simmons, trapped in front for 13, for 24 runs from seven overs.
Gayle repeated his 6-4-4 dose to Hasan but off the second ball of the first over from Gazi, was caught brilliantly by Tamim at the long on fence, making it the third time the newcomer has dismissed the big Jamaican on this tour.
The new ODI regulations that many feared would hamper Bangladesh's spinners as they allow only four fielders out of the 30-yard circle in non-Powerplay overs actually helped them in this match as new batsmen struggled to find singles against the discipline of the spinners. Marlon Samuels, Kieron Pollard, Darren Sammy and Devon Thomas all fell trying to force the pace. Thomas's wicket had the tourists at 133 for eight. Skipper Mushfiqur stopped Gazi in his run-up and told the long on fielder to take a few steps to his right. Thomas obliged by hitting the next ball straight down long on's throat.
That it was not a bad pitch was proven by tailenders Ravi Rampaul and Sunil Narine, who put together 57 runs for the ninth wicket utilising the batting Powerplay during which they scored 45 runs. The resistance ended when Rampaul's sweep off Abdur Razzak popped up for the keeper to pouch, and nine runs later Gazi trapped Narine in front to finish with 4 for 29 off nine excellent overs.