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Cracking the T20 code, and redressal of the bat-ball balance

After years of experimentation, it seems Bangladesh have finally figured out the T20 format Associated Press

Bangladesh turn T20 corner

It took them more than eight years to figure out the format, but it seems Bangladesh has now cracked T20s. They have an attacking top three, an aggressive middle-order and a bowling attack that is starting to withstand hard-hitting batting line-ups. The pace attack has figured out where to bowl in the slog overs and they always have spinners in reserve.

What Bangladesh is still lacking is a clutch hitter although Mahmudullah, Nurul Hasan and Mashrafe Mortaza have been doing the job, to an extent. Their next target, in the World T20, should be to use their strengths to keep the consistency going. It took them years to do that in ODIs but that experience should help hasten it in T20s.

Alarm bells for Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka's nervy batting against the UAE should have been a warning as Sri Lanka lurched from one poor performance to the next in three games against Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Their only good performance was in the last game, a dead rubber against Pakistan, in which Tillakaratne Dilshan scored half of their 150 runs. Lasith Malinga's absence as lead bowler and captain made it difficult, but the likes of Nuwan Kulasekara and Rangana Herath failed to threaten any of the batting line-ups. They had to make use of three captains in four games.

Dinesh Chandimal batted well but couldn't impose himself while newcomers like Dushmantha Chameera, Dasun Shanaka or Milinda Siriwardana couldn't really get going with bat or ball. With concern increasing after losing experienced hands, Mathews, Chandimal and Dilshan have their work cut out.

Pitch perfect

It may have been inadvertent, but keeping a little grass on the pitch in Mirpur invigorated the Asia Cup. A tournament that was largely seen as the usher to the World T20 began bossing the headlines. UAE had a chance to upset Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan played an enthralling game despite the target being only 84 and even when batting became easier as the tournament wore on, 130 still needed some nerveless chasing from Bangladesh.

With loads of cricket played at Shere Bangla stadium, right from the Under-19 World Cup in February, the idea behind the grass cover had been to keep the pitches from deteriorating too fast. A healthy side effect was that the batsmen had to be clever to get their runs and bowlers knew they had a chance if they kept at it on a good length. In other words, the balance between bat and ball was brought back.

Spinning out of the spotlight

Bangladesh began the tournament with four fast bowlers. MS Dhoni kept R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja back as fifth and sixth change bowlers against Pakistan. Even at the tail end, when the pitches got dryer and barer, life for the spinners didn't get any better. At the end of it all, they had only 34 wickets. The fast bowlers had 92.

Associates flavour

The qualifiers were a treat as well. And they threw up a few names to look out for. Babar Hayat struck the only century of the tournament - he could have taken Hong Kong across the line on his own steam. Left-arm spinner Aamir Kaleem pulled off a mankad to turn that game before rookie left-arm seamer Bilal Khan closed it out. UAE's bowlers had their share of the spotlight, foremost among them being the captain Amjad Javed and fast bowler Mohammad Naveed. Afghanistan were a bit of a disappointment though. They won two out of three games, but the one loss - to UAE - caught them off guard.