After wins over India, Pakistan, Bangladesh maturing
The one- time easy beats of South Asian cricket have just turned a corner, with an impressive series win at home against continental powerhouse India. South Africa, watch out!
Almost 30 years since its first foray into the top limited-overs cricket arena, Bangladesh has matured into a consistent, competitive team capable of beating anyone on home turf. A recent string of 10 victories on home soil by Bangladesh should be warning enough for fourth-ranked South Africa when it embarks on a tour of two tests and three ODIs next month.
Two-time world champion India and 1992 World Cup winner Pakistan were handed emphatic defeats in bilateral series this month and the margins of defeat surprised probably even Bangladesh’s most ardent fans.
Bangladesh swept Pakistan 3-0 in an ODI series — winning by 79 runs, seven wickets and eight wickets — and then took a winning 2-0 lead against a fullstrength India squad with margins of 79 runs and six wickets before losing the last game.
Bangladesh flags were waved relentlessly at the Mirpur Stadium by boisterous fans celebrating as their team outplayed the opposition to secure a spot at the Champions Trophy.
“It wasn’t surprising because we have seen a different Bangladesh team since the World Cup,” said Bangladesh bowling coach Heath Streak, a former Zimbabwe pace bowler. “The players are definitely more confident and they now believe they can win more consistently.”
Bangladesh had chances during the World Cup quarterfinal match against India in March but lost to the 2011 champions. Only three months later, it was the Bangladesh team which made the most of its opportunities.
“For Bangladesh, it’s huge to beat India and throw a message to the cricket world,” Streak said.
Bangladesh always had reliable spin bowlers, a must on the traditionally spin-friendly subcontinental conditions, but it is the batting consistency and penetrative pace bowling that has turned the national team around.
Left- handed opener Tamim Iqbal’s back- to- back centuries were instrumental in clinching the series against Pakistan, and bowler Mustafizur Rahman grabbed 11 wickets in the first two games against India to remind everyone of its traditional frailty against leftarm pace bowlers.
The 19-year-old Rahman was particularly impressive with his slower deliveries while captain Mashrafe Mortaza, Rubel Hossain and young Taskin Ahmed kept a tight length around the off stump to trouble the Indians.
“What particularly impressed me was how subtly they changed their pace,” veteran India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said. “They didn’t bowl 140 and then 110, but took it down marginally. They did well in the World Cup because of their fast bowlers so we were not surprised they relied on them.”
Bangladesh has beaten teams like India, Pakistan, South Africa and England in World Cup matches previously but has struggled with consistency, especially abroad.
Mortaza is determined to turn that situation around, too.
“We’re now confident of playing well abroad,” Mortaza said. “The boys can deliver in all conditions and we hope to maintain our form against South Africa.”
Bangladesh has won 93 of 306 ODIs, lost 209 with four noresults, but the winning percent is likely to improve considerably in the short format of the game.
Its record in test cricket, which once showed a dismal 27 losses and one draw, may take some time improving with seven wins in 91 games with 71 lost and 13 draws.
What Mortaza and co need is the new-found confidence in the limited-overs formats to transfer into the five-day matches — a home series against South Africa is the next opportunity.