Pakistan vs Bangladesh, 3rd ODI, Lahore April 13, 2008

Sing when you're winning

Bangladesh finally show some fight


The future is bright, the future is Tamim Iqbal © AFP
 

Not many sights in cricket are as uplifting as Bangladesh on the hunt. When they are in the game, when they have a sniff, there is just so much to celebrate: the joy of an impending underdog upset, the ebullience with which their batsmen, physically so small, go about playing such a big game. Conversely, there are also few sights as deflating as Bangladesh fluffing it up.

That is what they did today, for they were in the chase for much of it, the flame only really dying out when Shahid Afridi struck twice in an over very late on. Until then, their batsmen had chased so audaciously that you couldn't help but admire it. Tamim Iqbal's beautifully upright strokeplay, Aftab Ahmed's madcap improvisation and Shakib Al Hasan's handy mixture of both deserved more than the narrow loss, but here at last was some spine.

Jamie Siddons, Bangladesh's coach, drew some positives from Faisalabad, so naturally you would expect him to draw some more from here. Not quite. "Yeah I guess there were some, but there were negatives too, like we let them score over 300 again," he hesitantly concluded afterwards. "Two positives are that we got our highest score against Pakistan and our highest against major opposition. So things are starting to come together in that sense. Our batting is getting together well. Sides have to make 280-plus against us now to feel safe."

The real regret, you suspect, was that the wounds were again self-inflicted. The run-outs of Tamim and Mohammad Ashraful, and Aftab reverse-sweeping once too often were game-breaking moments, handed to a nervy Pakistan on a plate with free condiments to boot. Shoaib Malik all but acknowledged that Bangladesh's lack of experience in such run-chases played against them as much as Pakistan's bowling.

"We had a poor patch from the 30-40 overs and there were a couple of overs where we lost the game," Siddons agreed. "Those run-outs didn't help us because otherwise we were running them close."

But Siddons knows there were positives elsewhere as well. Pakistan's start suggested a total of 400 was on the cards, but Bangladesh came back well to restrict them to 308. Shahadat Hossain's inclusion, on numbers alone, doesn't seem to have made much of a difference but one wicket for 58 masks a solid opening spell. They also don't speak highly enough of his contribution to the death overs in which along with Mashrafe Mortaza, he restricted Pakistan to 72 runs in the last ten.

The popular complaint is that he is too one-dimensional for ODIs, that he only has pace, can't bat or field and isn't quite the cerebral machine that a Dennis Lillee or Richard Hadlee was; admittedly he pitched short far too often for anyone's good, but for a strapping, enthusiastic young fast bowler, hungry to make up for a couple of missed matches, how much can you really blame him? Three-hundred they conceded, but not with a whimper.

Above all, Bangladesh might as well have adorned an alternative kit altogether for they looked a different side to the one that played the first game at this stadium only a few days ago. "Consistency is the key," Siddons said, feet firmly grounded as always. "We want to continue to keep making competitive totals. We need to be consistent. In the past, we've dropped back after good performances and become bad again. We can't keep doing that."

It is understandable, if maddening, for a run of defeats does little good to the psyche. "No one likes losing at the end of the day. In our team meeting, I told the guys to go out and achieve a record and we did, but they are a bit down. If we start winning, we might start singing again."

When they do, make sure you're listening for it is unlikely you will have heard something so beautiful.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

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