Raqibul helps Bangladesh level series
Bangladesh, with their backs to the wall, put in a much-improved performance to square the series 1-1 after edging past Zimbabwe by six wickets in Mirpur. The bowlers, led by Nazmul Hossain, set it up by restricting Zimbabwe to 160 in bowler-friendly conditions and the batsmen approached the chase cautiously, ensuring that the top order didn't crumble when faced with a modest target.
Bangladesh were guided by patient knocks from Mehrab Hossain jnr and Raqibul Hasan, both of whom put a price on their wickets and batted sensibly. Mehrab, returning to his former role as an opener, scored 43 off 85 balls while Raqibul remained unbeaten on 52.
Zimbabwe lost the game within the first 20 overs, when Nazmul and Rubel Hossain justified Mohammad Ashraful's decision at the toss, reducing the visitors to 47 to 6. Sean Williams, who top scored with 59, and Prosper Utseya led the recovery with a 96-run stand, but the final score was far too little to test Bangladesh.
Tamim Iqbal began the chase on a bright note, adding 32 with Mehrab before throwing his wicket away, swinging across the line to Tawanda Mupariwa. Bangladesh were jolted further when Mohammad Ashraful perished trying to force Ed Rainsford past cover. Mehrab and Raqibul took their time and compiled a stand of 52, a partnership which took the game away from Zimbabwe. Mehrab brought up the fifty partnership with a leg glance for four off Ray Price.
When Mehrab fell in the 28th over, lobbing Price to midwicket, Bangladesh were well on course to win with the score on 94. The in-form Shakib Al Hasan forced the pace with a 22-ball 24 as both batsmen took on the seamers. Raqibul brought up his fifty with a clip off Mupariwa to deep midwicket, and though Shakib fell to Prosper Utseya with the team still 25 adrift of the target, Mushfiqur Rahim, dropping down the order, sealed the victory in style with a six.
The damage had earlier been inflicted by Nazmul, who continued the good work he'd started against the Sri Lankans in the recently-concluded tri-series. He ended a patient opening stand in the tenth over by getting rid of Hamilton Masakadza, who tried to break free but spliced a simple catch to mid-off.
Vusi Sibanda, returning to the side, forced three boundaries to the on side off Nazmul but was trapped leg before off the same bowler while trying to nudge it fine. Tatenda Taibu, battling indifferent form on this tour, failed to make amends, as a flick off Rubel was taken brilliantly by Mehrab at midwicket. It got progressively worse for the visitors after they lost three more wickets for the addition of two runs - Stuart Matsikenyeri was run out, Elton Chigumbura was bowled off an inside edge off Nazmul while Rubel beat Malcolm Waller for pace.
Zimbabwe had lost six with less than 50 on the board and were desperate for a recovery. It came, though the pace of cricket was anything but exciting. The spinners rushed through their overs and for Utseya, defense was the best form of attack - he consumed 50 balls to get to 5.
The boundary drought lasted close to 22 overs and the spell was broken in the 39th over when the batsmen opted for the third Powerplay. Williams slashed two fours through the off side before launching the offspin of Mahmudullah and Naeem Islam for sixes over midwicket. He reached his fifty off 81 balls and fell soon after for 59, run out by Mortaza. That stand produced 96 but their stubborn resistance wasn't enough in the end. Bangladesh's comeback has brought the series alive ahead of the deciding one-dayer on Friday.