'I like to be a hero at the end' - Nasir
Nasir Hossain likes to be the hero. Not in movies, not yet. He wants to be the hero at the end of a cricket match, the batsman who guides the team to a win through a treacherous chase and finishes off with a flourish. His unbeaten 33 against Sri Lanka on Thursday night is an innings of that ilk, the kind he has been playing since his early days, and the ones that he wants to build his career on.
"I like the chase, I like to be a hero at the end," Nasir told ESPNcricinfo. "I used to be a better at chasing totals when I was a kid playing under-13s and under-15s. I could finish them in style back then. Now it has become slightly more attritional as I go about a chase."
"I enjoy myself, and I think I bat much better when there is a chase towards a target and the required rate is high. I always give 100% but during these phases I just like it a little more. It brings the best out of me."
A chance to beat Sri Lanka doesn't come every day for Bangladesh, but when the target was lowered to 183 from 27 overs due to a long rain-break, their batsmen panicked. Jahurul Islam started off with a push to deep cover and rushed to take two runs. Anamul Haque was there too, doing pretty much the same thing. It looked like someone had shifted their batting gears up too quickly; both perished soon after.
Nasir had a target of 64 from 54 on his hands as he joined captain Mushfiqur Rahim at the crease in the 18th over but, while he ought to have expected his senior partner to calm the nerves, things went in the opposite direction. Mushfiqur was frantic, swinging across the line from the start and trying to pick a single off every ball. All Sri Lanka had to do was wait for the inevitable mistake. And as soon as Nasir dropped the ball to the adjacent pitch, Thisara Perera outran Mushfiqur with an athletic dive, swooped on the ball and hit the stumps to leave Bangladesh in trouble. Mahmudullah panicked too, though it wasn't his running but choice of shots.
The dismissals of Mushfiqur and Mahmudullah were surprising given their own ability to negotiate chases, having proved it on the big occasions last year. So it was down to Nasir to guide the chase with young Mominul Haque, the big-hitter Ziaur Rahman and the increasingly dependable Sohag Gazi.
It was his poise at this stage, when Bangladesh needed 39 off 32 balls, that impressed. Nasir has developed his own little routine, which sums up how anyone should react to being asked to complete a task against the time. "As soon as the wicket falls, I walk to the pitch calmly and take a good look at the wicket.
"I decide to play 8-10 balls properly depending on the situation and make sure I start middling them quickly too. Then I take it from there. I don't see any reason to hurry."
Nasir's contributions have become a feature of the side's important chases. Against India and Sri Lanka last year, he scored vital runs when the required run rate was rising. Against West Indies last year, he was the last remaining batsman to guide the chase and did so diligently with Mominul, Gazi and Elias Sunny. There was no run-rate pressure but Bangladesh had fewer wickets in hand against a pace attack that was rampant till that point; more importantly, Bangladesh lacked belief that they could actually make it 3-2 against West Indies without Shakib Al Hasan.
In Pallekele, too, he soaked in the pressure when Sri Lanka was swinging back in to the game, Nasir took a final chance. "After that Malinga over, I just had to take my chances against Perera. I planned to get as much from the over because I didn't want too many to score in the last over," he said.
The three boundaries in the 26th over came against the run of play as he hacked and swung at everything. Gazi was on strike for the first time after Nuwan Kulasekera had dramatically saved a six at the third-man boundary. Off the last ball of the over, he swung hard and the ball took the top-edge and raced to the boundary.
Nasir would have liked to finish it off his own bat, like a hero would, but he settled for the win. "It matters to me if my 33 or even a 20 contributes to the team winning," he said.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here