Rubel, Shakib savour the winning habit
Shakib Al Hasan's all-round brilliance and the dominance of Bangladesh's spinners may be the lasting memories from this series, but today both those factors were reduced to secondary roles. On a day when Bangladesh went one better than the series victory, completing a memorable whitewash against a top opposition, it was Rubel Hossain's abilities with new ball and old that made the difference.
Defending a decidedly under-par 174, Rubel had more than played his part in his opening spell, nipping out New Zealand's top three batsmen in his first three overs. New Zealand's resilience had, however, brought them back into the game and Rubel was called on for the final over against a rampant Kyle Mills, with seven runs to defend.
Rubel would have had a sense of déjà vu as he ran in for that last over. When Mills slammed the first ball for four, Rubel would have remembered the fateful tri-series final against Sri Lanka last year, in the same ground, when Muttiah Muralitharan's targeted onslaught against him in the batting Powerplay stopped Bangladesh inches short of their most memorable cricketing moment.
Things were about to turn out differently today, though. Two inch-perfect yorkers on leg stump followed, the second one cleaning up Mills and sending Mirpur into a frenzy. Rubel later revealed that he never felt the pressure, even after that boundary ball.
"I thought it was only a matter of one good delivery and it never really crossed my mind that we could lose," he said. "The captain also told me that they need four runs and we needed one wicket and that it was my day and he believed I could win the match for Bangladesh."
Shakib would have had a sense of déjà vu of his own; this was not the first time he was taking over the reins from an injured Mashrafe Mortaza to lead his side to a whitewash. The same template had been followed when Bangladesh beat West Indies 3-0 last year. "Maybe you should ask him to get injured in a series again and then we'll try to find out if this formula works every time", Shakib said light-heartedly. "When I bat I don't think of myself as a captain with specific or special responsibilities. I just play my own game. Similarly, when bowling I try to pick the best bowler to bowl in a particular situation and if that bowler happens to be me then I come in."
With four wins this series, Bangladesh have emphatically addressed their previous inability to build on hitherto sporadic victories against top sides. Shakib said it was the winning habit, developed on the back of three authoritative performances, that stood his side in good stead despite a poor total today.
"We didn't have a defendable total and yet the moment the first wicket fell there was a buzz in the field and we believed we could pull this game back our way," Shakib said. "This was a result of the three victories in a row. Often in the past with a similar score I have seen shoulders dropping and the belief disappearing but today we saw what winning teams are made of."
Shakib was also careful enough not to get too caught up in the euphoria of the victory and ignore the areas for improvement. "I still think our top-order batting was not up to the mark as we lost wickets at the wrong times. We want atleast one of the top four batsmen to get to a good score and try to hold the innings together. Apart from the second game where we chased that did not happen in this series.
"The bowling and fielding was satisfactory but you can always improve on that. We also did not execute the Powerplays very well and often we found ourselves with too many wickets down when the last Powerplay arrived. Ideally you should have five or six wickets in hand when the final Powerplay starts."
The 4-0 scoreline brought Bangladesh within a few decimal points of toppling West Indies from the eighth spot in the ODI ratings. The upcoming series against Zimbabwe will give them a chance to push ahead and Shakib knew the importance of that tour.
"We should definitely continue working hard and prepare for the next series against Zimbabwe in December," he said. "They are a much improved side and although we have had a stranglehold over them in the last few years the matches often have been quite competitive. They are also playing pretty well in South Africa although the results haven't gone their way."