Naeem Islam fifty hands Bangladesh thrilling win
The dead rubber provided what this series has sorely lacked - a close finish. Naeem Islam was the hero for Bangladesh, conjuring a one-wicket victory with an unbeaten 73 in which he exploited the Powerplays perfectly. Naeem's heroics overshadowed what had been a virtuoso batting effort in the morning from Brendan Taylor, whose unbeaten 118, with very little support form the rest, was the difference between a familiar Zimbabwean batting failure and a defendable total.
Naeem had last man and uber-rabbit Nazmul Hossain for company, with Bangladesh still needing 35 for victory. The many singles that he turned down to remain on strike had the crowd getting restive, but Naeem had them chanting his name in joy with three consecutive sixes off Chamu Chibhabha in the 48th over to give the final twist to a topsy-turvy match. Those three deliveries turned Chibhabha from hero to zero, after he had put Zimbabwe in charge with a double-wicket maiden in the 43rd over.
Bangladesh had lost wickets at key junctures of their chase. The openers failed (Tamim Iqbal retired hurt early with a hand injury, and only returned at No. 10) and Mohammad Ashraful was run out by a brilliant bit of fielding from Stuart Matsikenyeri, who latched onto the ball quickly at short midwicket and threw down the stumps. Raqibul Hasan was extremely scratchy, and lucky to survive after plenty of swings and misses against Chris Mpofu, who was getting the ball to swing away from the right-hander. Matsikenyeri also did his bit with the ball, taking two key wickets - of Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim.
The coach Jamie Siddons had talked about how the past few victorious months have taught Bangladesh how to win, and they showed that by refusing to give up in the face of several setbacks. One example of that was when their most dependable batsman, Shakib, was dismissed leaving Bangladesh stuttering at 105 for 5. The home team fought back though with a mature partnership between Naeem and Mahmudullah, the pair adding 69 patient runs with both batsmen abandoning the flashy shots that has cost Bangladesh dear on so many occasions.
There would have been no need for the nail-biting and tensions had Taylor been dismissed cheaply in the morning. His maiden international century had bailed Zimbabwe's fragile batting from yet another embarrassing display, but it all amounted to nothing. Bangladesh's spinners proved too crafty for most of the visitors' batsmen again, and Zimbabwe were reduced to 113 for 7 in the 29th over. However, Zimbabwe's lower order showed more spine than most of their specialist batsmen, and supported Taylor well to lift the total beyond 200.
Bangladesh again stuck to their policy of filling the side with spinners, and it again paid off as the slow bowlers took all nine wickets to fall. Abdur Razzak has regularly picked up wickets with the new ball, and today was no different as he left Zimbabwe at 18 for 2 in the eighth over.
Elton Chigumbura dominated a stabilising 62-run stand with Taylor, smashing six fours in a run-a-ball 38 before being foxed by a quicker one from offspinner Mahmudullah. Things got worse for Zimbabwe two deliveries later when another quicker one fooled Malcolm Waller. Taylor could only watch in frustration as three more wickets went down quickly. Later, Shakib bagged two wickets in three balls, of Forster Mutizwa and Chamu Chibhabha, in the 29th over.
Taylor had quietly moved along to 65, with only 22 runs in boundaries, but steadily pushed Zimbabwe to 181 for 8 by the end of 45 overs with the help of Ray Price. He launched an assault in the final over, ransacking 19 runs to dent Mahmudullah's figures.