England's finisher floors Bangladesh
The sound of Eoin Morgan cracking Shafiul Islam over midwicket for a match-sealing six was the sound of 30,000 pairs of feet turning on their heels and shuffling to the exit gates. One moment Mirpur was a cauldron of nationalistic fervour that believed, surely, that this time their passion would be rewarded with a win. The next, Morgan had calmly popped the winning runs over the rope, and the cricket-ball-on-green-baize Bangladesh flags that had waved with premature triumph in the stands were rolled away and carted off home, with an accepting shrug and a promise to return again next time.
Rarely can any victory have been greeted with such abrupt silence, and rarely can any young player have announced his arrival to such a stony-faced reaction in the stands. Morgan's unbeaten 110 - his first century for England but his second in all ODIs after crossing the mark previously with Ireland - was, by his own admission, the innings of his life, and without it England would have been cooked. But such was his focus, and so quiet was the reaction, that he did not even notice the moment he reached three figures. Three balls and two boundaries later, victory was sealed to an equal lack of acclaim.
"Everything went very, very quiet and I walked down the wicket thinking we needed one to win, but then the umpire flicked the bails," said Morgan. The denouement was a cruel misfortune for a Bangladesh team that had picked itself up from its failings in the first ODI, addressed the issues that had lost them the momentum in that match, and returned with a performance that they have never bettered in any of their previous 13 international encounters with England.
Like Inzamam-ul-Haq at Multan in 2003, where Bangladesh were thwarted by a solo century in an agonising one-wicket defeat, Morgan's performance transcended the apparent vulnerabilities of his opponents, and deserved to be acclaimed on its ball-by-ball merits. His first fifty came from a staid 63 balls; his final 30 came in a 12-ball rush - and the heartbreak he inflicted underlined just how well paced he had been. Not even that greater "finisher" of yesteryear, Michael Bevan, could have timed his acceleration any more perfectly.
"Everything went to plan," said Morgan. "We wanted to take it down to the Powerplay in the last couple of overs, preferably with very few wickets lost, and it happened that we needed 60 to win off ten. Perfect. My hundred certainly wasn't something I was thinking of, it was more about the short boundary and where I was going to hit it. But this is a big step in my career, and a very proud day for me, and for the team to get a win. Hopefully it's the step to bigger and better things."
Early in his innings, Morgan survived a brace of raucous lbw appeals from Mahmudullah that Bangladesh's captain, Shakib Al Hasan, later claimed were the decisive moment of the match. But the true turning point came in the 47th over, when Shakib decided to recall Shafiul to the attack, at the expense of the spinners who had asphyxiated the lower-order in a collapse of 4 for 31 in 6.1 overs. Morgan's response was a first-ball bunt back over Shafiul's head for four, as the young seamer - in only his second month of international cricket - conceded 23 match-sealing runs in 11 balls.
Whether the absent Mashrafe Mortaza, a veteran of 102 ODIs dating back to November 2001, could have fared better in the same situation was a hot topic of debate in the aftermath of the match, as rumours circulated of a rift within the Bangladeshi camp, following his wicketless return from an eight-month injury lay-off in the first ODI on Sunday.
Prior to the start of the match, the Bangladesh Cricket Board had released a statement on Mortaza's behalf, claiming that he had requested to be withdrawn from the squad "to be by the side of his ailing mother". Whatever the truth behind this explanation, Shakib did not refer to it once when he faced the press after the game, and was even dismissive of Mortaza's enduring worth to the side.
"The way Mashrafe bowled before his injury, that Mashrafe we might have missed tonight," he said of the man from whom he inherited the captaincy back in July. "But the way he bowled in the last match and the practice match [at Fatullah], not really."
Either way, the decision to go with extra pace in the Powerplay suited England just fine. "I was surprised," said Morgan. "I thought they would have finished off with spin, but their left-armers [Shakib and Abdur Razzak] were bowled out before the end, which means we played well in the middle period of the game, and forced them to try and take wickets. We'd have liked to finish five or six-down, but that didn't happen."
Part of the credit in that period belonged to England's beleaguered wicketkeeper, Matt Prior, who found his place in the side under some scrutiny at the start of the series, after Craig Kieswetter was called up to the squad with a view to playing in the World Twenty20 next month. But Kieswetter's awkward baptism continued as he edged his third ball to slip, moments after being dropped by the keeper, and Prior took advantage of his misfortune to produce a calm 42, in a fifth-wicket stand of 90.
Almost overlooked amid the excitement - or rather the anticlimax, as it couldn't help but feel in the aftermath - was the fact that England had sewn the series up 2-0, and that Alastair Cook had therefore won his first piece of silverware as the caretaker of the national side.
"It's a very relieved feeling, because I'm not the best cricket watcher when it gets tense," said Cook. "Eoin was probably the coolest person out there, I certainly wasn't, I was pacing up and down all the time. But it was a really good chase on that wicket. We kept losing wickets at the wrong time, and we'd have liked to chase six-down if we're being hard on ourselves. But a win is a win and we now want to win 3-0."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo. Go to http://twitter.com/miller_cricket to follow him on Twitter through the England tour of Bangladesh.