Af­ter wins over In­dia, Pak­istan, Bangladesh ma­tur­ing

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY C.RA­JSHEKHAR RAO

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.

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