Bangladesh achieve victory at last
Bangladesh 238 for 7 (Habibul 61, Rajin 57) beat Zimbabwe 230 for 9 (Carlisle 71, Tareq 3-38) by 8 runs
Bangladesh have won their first international fixture since achieving Test status, after inching to an eight-run victory over Zimbabwe in a thrilling finish at Harare.
After batting first on a damp pitch, Bangladesh posted a competitive total of 238 for 7, and then bowled nervelessly under extreme pressure to resist a hard-hitting response from the Zimbabwean batsmen. With 13 runs to defend in the final over, Tareq Aziz bowled Stuart Matsikenyeri and Doug Hondo with consecutive deliveries, to prompt unfettered scenes of joy in the Bangladeshi dressing-room, not to mention among their fans back home.
Bangladesh had not won a match of any description since beating Pakistan in that now-tainted World Cup fixture in May 1999, but now, after their first two matches against Zimbabwe were washed out in Bulawayo, they have a golden opportunity to steal a series victory as well. That prospect is sure to be enhanced by the Zimbabwean weather, which has been inclement to say the least over the past few weeks.
It was with the rain in mind that Heath Streak chose to bowl first, imagining that the damp pitch would dry out over the course of the day and make batting easier in the afternoon. But Bangladesh exceeded Streak's expectations with solid performances all down their batting card. The backbone of their innings was provided by a third-wicket partnership of 114 between Rajin Saleh and Habibul Bashar, before Mohammad Ashraful creamed a 31-ball half-century to complete a satisfactory effort.
Rajin and Habibul both scored half-centuries, although Bashar's was particularly gratifying as it allowed him to forget his disappointing Test series (which included a pair at Harare) and record his first innings of note as Bangladesh captain. They came together at 20 for 2, after the early losses of Shahriar Hossain and Alok Kapali, and scored their runs at a steady pace over 28 overs. That provided the perfect platform for a late barrage of runs, and Ashraful and the two Khaleds - Mahmud and Mashud - duly obliged.
Ashraful, now firmly restored to favour after a spell on the sidelines, completed his fifty in the final over of the innings. He received excellent support from Mahmud, the recently deposed captain, who made 22 from 16 balls with two fours and six over midwicket off Doug Hondo, before being run out by a direct hit from Ray Price. It was one of three such dismissals to hamper Bangladesh's progress in the closing overs, but with Ashraful seeing the ball like a football, it made little impact on their run-rate.
In reply, Bangladesh made an excellent start as Grant Flower was trapped lbw for 2 in Tareq's second over, but it was one-way traffic thereafter as Barney Rogers and Stuart Carlisle added 109 for the second wicket. But when Mushfiqur Rahman returned to the attack, the innings was transformed. Rogers and Tatenda Taibu fell in the space of four overs, and Carlisle and Sean Ervine followed shortly afterwards (140 for 5).
Heath Streak and Dion Ebrahim fashioned a recovery of sorts, but when Ebrahim was bowled by Mohammad Rafique for 13, Zimbabwe still needed 70 runs with four wickets remaining. Streak responded with a cut for four off Kapali, and Matsikenyeri clobbered Tapash Baisya for six over square leg, but Zimbabwe were forever a boundary behind the asking rate, with overs and wickets slipping away.
The big dismissal was that of Streak, caught off a leading edge as he attempted to flick a legside full-toss from Tapash to the boundary (199 for 7). Price entered the fray and gave Bangladesh a major dose of the heebie-jeebies as he belted Mahmud for six, but they could only manage six runs from Tapash's final over. It was asking too much of Zimbabwe to recover from there, and Tareq effectively sealed the game with his final-over brace.
Zimbabwe 1 Heath Streak (capt), 2 Tatenda Taibu (wk), 3 Barney Rogers, 4 Dion Ebrahim, 5 Blessing Mahwire, 6 Stuart Carlisle, 7 Douglas Hondo, 8 Sean Ervine, 9 Raymond Price, 10 Stuart Matsikenyeri, 11 Grant Flower.
Bangladesh 1 Habibul Bashar (capt), 2 Shahriar Hossain, 3 Alok Kapali, 4 Rajin Saleh, 5 Mohammad Ashraful, 6 Mushfiqur Rahman, 7 Khaled Mahmud, 8 Khaled Mashud (wk), 9 Mohammad Rafique, 10 Tapas Baisya, 11 Tareq Aziz.