Nasir grabs chance to build an innings
Nasir Hossain has played six innings in 12 ODIs for Bangladesh this year, never batting higher than No. 7. It is a position from which, given the nature of limited-overs cricket, one doesn't always get a chance to build an innings. He has faced only 143 balls in ODIs in 2015, an average of less than 25 balls per outing. In his last two matches against India A, Nasir has faced a total of 167.
On Friday in the second one-dayer against India, Nasir went out to bat at with Bangladesh A at 82 for 5 after 18.1 overs. He had plenty of time to get his eye in, build an innings and stretch the score as much as he could, with the only risk being a lack of batting partners. And that's what he did. He started out playing second fiddle to No. 5 Liton Das, who was middling the ball better than the top-order batsmen, built a solid base as the sun shone more and more, and after Liton fell, launched an attack in the company of the tail-end batsmen.
Nasir had been waiting for such opportunities to score big and bat under pressure. He later said he didn't have a clearly defined plan when he walked out but knew that he wanted to bat out 50 overs.
"I like batting at No. 7, I've batted there for the national team so I'm happy to do it here also," he said. "When I was there, the wicket was good for batting, I just wanted to bat throughout. I always enjoy batting with Liton. There was no particular plan when I went out to bat, we were just looking to build a partnership and play till the end. So we played accordingly and the plan clicked."
Nasir had enjoyed Liton's company in the first one-dayer too, when the pair added 120 runs from a score of 87 for 5 to give India A a scare in their defence of 322. Nasir followed that innings of 52 with a century today to steer the team out of a storm and then, with returns of 5 for 36, ensured they reached the shore, too.
His only moment of weakness with the bat came in the 23rd over off Karn Sharma when he went for an aerial drive. Luckily for Nasir, the ball landed wide of a diving Gurkeerat Singh at deep cover. Those mistakes were corrected the next time he came down the track. It was against Karn again in the 28th over, but the ball was middled better and hit well wide of long-on for four.
But Nasir knew that one small mistake, one mis-hit, would expose the tail. So he reduced the risks but still found the boundaries. There was a late cut off Gurkeerat in the 31st over, a back-foot punch off Rishi Dhawan along the ground soon after Liton was dismissed, and a sweep to bring up his fifty off 54 balls in the 37th over.
The tougher parts came with the tail-end batsmen. Nasir's 50-run, seventh-wicket partnership with Arafat Sunny had taken the score past 200. Arafat fell in the 43rd over, but Nasir chose to wait before switching gears. It was only once Shafiul was run out, in the 46th over, that Nasir floored it.
He followed his nudge to third man for four with a single to keep strike. And on 76, he targeted Suresh Raina, who had conceded only eight runs from his two overs, with a slog sweep off the first ball and then a cover drive over the in-field. Two balls later, he unleashed another powerful drive to sprint to 88, and made his way into the nineties with a boundary in the next over.
His celebration on reaching the three-figure mark was not as dramatic, a manner perhaps similar to his first ODI hundred, but he knew he had done what he was expected to do, and what he was eagerly waiting to accomplish.
"Every partnership was very important, the one with Liton was a big one, but runs with Sunny and Rubel were equally important to post 252," Nasir said. "The pressure was always there but I wanted to bat all 50 overs, I didn't have a target in mind."
He batted for over two hours when the chips were down, something he enjoys and something he was first selected for back in 2011.
"I really enjoy batting when the team is under pressure," Nasir had said after his maiden ODI century nearly four years ago. "When four or five wickets are down, I love batting in those situations. I really don't know why but I really enjoy it."
Vishal Dikshit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo