This is how we should play at home - Mushfiqur
Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim said his team had shown signs of consistency and stability in their 3-0 series win over Zimbabwe, the first time they have swept a three-match Test series.
The results came despite the fact that several players had been in poor form for most of the year. In the first Test in Mirpur, Taijul Islam took eight wickets during Zimbabwe's second innings but Bangladesh had to sweat a bit before reaching the 101-run target. Khulna and Chittagong were relatively easier victories. Mushfiqur gave credit to the senior players like Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal, who shone brightly with individual performances.
"I can't take too much credit," Mushfiqur said. "The way our players performed throughout the series, any captain would have been in my position. It is a good sign. We won two Tests on the final day, which shows our character and the fact that we can play good cricket consistently.
"We knew that if we executed properly, a 3-0 result was possible. It is nothing unbelievable as it was always going to be difficult to play spin in Bangladesh. All credit goes to the bowlers but the batsmen ensured they had the scoreboard pressure on their side. We knew that if everyone performed, the series would be ours. Ahead of the series we wanted the senior players to lead from the front. Riyad bhai [Mahmudullah], Shakib and Tamim have done well and the juniors were asked to enjoy the game."
Bangladesh had a nervy start on the fifth day, needing nine wickets on a pitch that offered very little to the bowlers. On the fourth evening too, Zimbabwe started off well, despite the early wicket. Mushfiqur bowled Taijul Islam and Shuvagata Hom, alongside his attacking options like Shakib and Jubair Hossain. The tactic worked on the fifth morning when Shuvagata took the first two wickets.
"The first session was very important and their best batsmen [Hamilton Masakadza and Sikandar Raza] were at the crease. I knew that if we could take a wicket or two in the first half-hour, we could put them under pressure," Mushfiqur said. "[Brendan] Taylor is a very good player but he hasn't had a great time in the series, so we wanted him at the crease at the earliest. That's how it happened and I am very happy about winning the last two Tests easily.
"The way they were batting, we knew it was a matter of time. They were taking a lot of risks so I knew that they would get out any time. So we just waited to grab that opportunity. I had a lot of bowling options, so I used someone to attack. Whenever I needed a wicket, I tried to mix everyone and not just hold up one end.
"Maybe right-handers have an easier time facing offspinners but on this wicket, they have to play every ball. It is slightly harder to play offspinners on such a wicket, we noticed last evening. We wanted to give him [Shuvagata] the bowling at the start, so that they can make a mistake while defending or attacking. Credit goes to Shuvagata Hom for creating pressure and taking two vital wickets. The pace bowlers also deserve a big thanks. Shafiul took two vital wickets in the first innings, and then Rubel took early wickets in both innings."
Shakib backed up his captain by saying that he didn't feel bad not getting enough bowling, which also deprived him from taking 20 wickets in the series, in addition to his 251 runs.
"There is nothing to feel bad. What if I didn't get 17 wickets in the first two Tests? You need luck, which wasn't there in this Test so it didn't happen," Shakib said. "If it did happen I would have felt good but I don't think about it now.
"It feels good obviously that I managed to contribute for the team. I was satisfied with my performance. I could have perhaps batted better, but, on the whole, I was very satisfied with this series."
Bangladesh have leap-frogged Zimbabwe into ninth position in the ICC Test rankings, but have never won a series in Zimbabwe. Mushfiqur was finally asked if the 3-0 result at home was a fair reflection of the two teams' position and distance from each other.
"In our conditions, definitely [it is a fair reflection]," the Bangladesh captain said. "Except for that one hour in the first Test, I never thought they had the upper hand over us. Maybe sessions ended evenly but they were never dominating. This is how we should play at home, and play consistently for five days against every opponent."
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84