Dolar and Mushfiqur make it 4-1
After three consecutive run-fests, the bowlers finally had their say. Zimbabwe won the toss but thoughts of repeating the 312 they posted in the fourth match were undone by an incisive opening spell from Dolar Mahmud. A lower-order revival pushed the score to 210 but it wasn’t enough to challenge Bangladesh, who stormed to a 4-1 series win thanks to Mushfiqur Rahim’s 98.
It turned out to be a good toss to lose for Bangladesh, who were hardly tested with the kind of swing and seam movement which startled their opponents. The conditions this morning redressed the balance between bat and ball in this series. It was clear from the outset that hitting through the line wasn’t going to be easy. Zimbabwe didn’t respect the conditions enough, and slipped to 69 for 6 in the 14th over. The game was all but sealed.
Vusi Sibanda’s embarrassing dismissal just showed how clueless Zimbabwe were against the moving ball. Facing Dolar, he shuffled across, assuming it would be a leg-side wide, but the ball swung back towards him and sent the leg stump cartwheeling a few yards.
The frustration of having to earn boundaries, perhaps, saw Charles Coventry – the record breaker from the previous match – out before he could open his account. Dolar then bowled Malcolm Waller through the gate with an inswinger, sending his off stump for a spin. Syed Rasel, who kept things tight, trapped Sean Williams with a sharp in-dipper, before Dolar sent back Elton Chigumbura with another big inswinger.
As Zimbabwe slid, the value of the Dolar rose. He was flown in midway through the series as a replacement player, though Bangladesh will wonder after this performance why he wasn’t in the original squad.
Brendan Taylor was Zimbabwe’s last hope. He wasn’t afraid to use his feet against the spinners to pick boundaries over the on side, including a huge six over midwicket. The hosts desperately needed a recovery, and it took shape with two fifty-plus partnerships piloted by Taylor. Prosper Utseya assisted Taylor with a stand of 54 before another stubborn supporting act by Ray Price.
The spinners bowled in tandem from the 16th over till almost the end, but didn’t quite enjoy the same success as the seamers. Taylor and the lower order sensed that their only chance of a recovery was to pick as many singles off them. The spinners tried variations, slipped the odd quicker delivery in the blockhole, but the batsmen resisted. Taylor showed a lot of patience and also trusted his partners by constantly rotating the strike. After lofting Mahmudullah over midwicket in the 24th over, he had to wait 15 overs for his next boundary.
Price nudged it around, picked the gaps and wasn’t afraid to heave the spinners across the line, a tactic which fetched him boundaries. Taylor went shortly after getting his half-century, lbw to Mehrab Hossain jnr, before Price tried to marshall the tail.
Bangladesh’s start wasn’t electric, but steady, dominated by Mushfiqur who got valuable exposure in his makeshift role as an opener. Tamim Iqbal was uncharacteristically scratchy, and the frustration led to his dismissal. Mohammad Ashraful tried to waltz his way back into form by regularly charging the bowlers, but his audacity got the better of him – a slash off Chigumbura was taken by Sibanda, who pulled off a one-handed blinder leaping at backward point. Only recklessness, it seemed could have caused Bangladesh the game.
Mushfiqur had the luxury of time to build an innings and made his promotion count. Back in 2007, a lean trot with the bat – which included four ducks in five innings – cost him his place in the ODI squad. That was a distant memory today as he took charge, dictated terms by scooping Ed Rainsford over his head before taking on Elton Chigumbura to set the tone for the chase. He was comfortable when the spinners came on, making room to cut and pierce the big gaps in the field.
It was a near flawless effort, save for a thick edge which just cleared short third man. He reached out to a half volley from Utseya and crashed it through the covers, before cutting the same bowler through the off side. Mushfiqur exploited the big gaps in the field left by Zimbabwe, who had already given up, and slowly proceeded towards his hundred. A final act of bravado – stepping down the track to Price – cost him his maiden century but he had already done his job.
Bangladesh wouldn’t have settled for anything less than a 4-1 series win; what remains on the wishlist is consistency against tougher teams.