Volatile top order worries Bangladesh
The crowd was still making its way into the ground, journalists were scrambling to their seats from the second-floor dining room when Mohammad Ashraful made his way back to the dressing-room after giving West Indies captain Darren Sammy a catch at second slip, bringing several collapses to mind.
The score was 1 for 3 in the second over the first thoughts naturally were of the infamous 58 all out at the same venue seven months ago. As Shakib al Hasan started getting the ball past the in-field, a few breathed easy but the image of Chaminda Vaas picking up four wickets in the first over of Bangladesh's 2003 World Cup game still came to mind.
After three sweet boundaries, Shakib wafted at a Ravi Rampaul delivery, the fast bowler celebrating before the catch was completed. Bangladesh were now 18 for 4 and thoughts went back further and into Test match territory. The Jermaine Lawson shutout took place two months before that World Cup debacle at Pietermaritzburg, the Bangabandhu National Stadium being witness of a collapse from 80-3 to 87 all out in the space of 31 deliveries.
Like March this year, Pietermaritzburg eight years ago, Bangabandhu in 2002 or in any of the numerous instances, the collapse was hard to explain. Even the man who saved the Tigers from a proper skinning was left search for a reason.
The captain Mushfiqur Rahim, who saw most of the collapse from the other end and re-built the innings with Alok Kapali, Naeem Islam and Nasir Hossain, boldly criticised his batsmen for the madness.
"Even I don't have the answer," Mushfiqur said. "We won the toss on this flat wicket, as you must have seen there wasn't any sideways movement, though it wasn't such that we could have gone and started hitting. I think if our top-order had taken some time, like [Lendl] Simmons and [Marlon] Samuels did at first and then caught up, the scenario would have been different."
Collapses can still be prevented, especially by experienced batsmen. When Imrul Kayes had gone after Rampaul and edged the ball to Denesh Ramdin, Tamim Iqbal could have seen out the initial danger. Instead, he swung at Kemar Roach, slicing the ball all the way to third man. Ashraful and Shakib, who between them have nearly 300 ODI caps, didn't last long either.
"They are all matured players so instructions were not given in that way. Everyone knows [you have] to be careful after a wicket falls, to stop a collapse," Mushfiqur, who made technically sound 69, said. "In a Test or ODI, it is quite difficult to come back from this sort of situation. Everyone is told these things but today the ones who played shots, I think some of us played irresponsibly. It was our do-or-die match, we had to be more responsible. We depended on our top-order, but unfortunately, they couldn't deliver."
After Mushfiqur stabilised the innings Nasir, who made his debut in Zimbabwe with a half-century, showed composure in a more hostile environment before hitting his last 24 runs in 12 deliveries to give Bangladesh a late boost.
But the 221-run target seemed too easy for West Indies. "If they had scored 220 batting first, it would have been tricky for us," Mushfiqur said. "Credit to them, they didn't take early risks and then went after the bowling later on. There's a lot to learn from their batting."
Simmons, Danza Hyatt and Samuels displayed courage as they struck eight sixes and 17 boundaries on a track that offered turn. Shakib was the stand-out bowler, taking 2 for 30, but he had little support from Shafiul Islam, Rubel Hossain and Abdur Razzak.
Despite the trouble with the low-energy bowling attack, it would be the volatile top-order that would most worry Bangladesh coach Stuart Law. The only difference between this and all the collapses of the past was the recovery, though that amounted to little in the end.
Mohammad Isam is senior sports reporter at the Daily Star in Dhaka