Ashraful hails 'best victory'
Mohammad Ashraful, the Bangladesh captain, has hailed his side's five-wicket win over Sri Lanka in Mirpur on Thursday as their best victory. The match was the final league game of the tri-series and Bangladesh had to win in order to progress to the final.
"There have been some great wins like the one in Cardiff in the NatWest Trophy (2005) and the 2007 World Cup wins over India and South Africa," he said. "But I would rate this one at the top because there was a lot of pressure on us and it was a must-win situation."
Ashraful said the win was particularly satisfying because their critics had written them off after the loss to Zimbabwe in the tournament's opening match. He was also aware of the significance of the result. "Recently the debate on our Test status has surfaced again and this win, although it is in an ODI, could not have come at a better time."
The architect of the victory was in-form Shakib Al Hasan, who slammed a 69-ball 92 to rally Bangladesh from 11 for 3. "I think it is the best ODI innings I have seen from a Bangladeshi batsman considering the situation," Ashraful, who was involved in a game-transforming 91-run stand with Shakib, said. "He came in and started smashing the ball with great control. He took all the pressure off me and I could just take singles and give him the strike."
Shakib also rated it as his best knock. "The 96 in the first Test was the best before today. I thought I was in control and the timing was great," he said. "Difference is today we won and the Test match innings was in a lost cause."
One of the stand-out features of his innings was the ease with which he handled the dangerous spin duo of Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis. "What I can say from my experience is that Murali probably struggles to settle into a line while bowling to me as I sweep him a lot," he said. "Mendis usually bowls straight and a little quickly and there is small turn. My plan was to play him in the V as much as possible."
His batting also came in for praise from Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene. "Shakib showed a lot of maturity and we could hardly do anything to stop him after he saw off the difficult period with Ashraful," he said. "We were probably 30-40 runs short but I don't think even those runs would have mattered because of the way Shakib batted today."
Before Shakib's heroics, medium-pacers Mashrafe Mortaza and Rubel Hossain had restricted Sri Lanka to 147 after fog reduced the match to 31-overs-a-side. Mortaza took three top-order wickets, including Kumar Sangakkara and Upul Tharanga for ducks, to jolt Sri Lanka early. "Mash [Mortaza] set the tone for us with that brilliant opening spell. We needed a good start and he provided that," Ashraful said. "You will see that in almost all the famous wins of Bangladesh he has done something outstanding."
Rubel, who has a round-arm action, finished with 4 for 33, the best figures for a debutant Bangladesh bowler. "His bowling action can be difficult to pick at times," Ashraful said. "We gave him a free license and he troubled the batsmen with pace and bounce. He did everything that was asked of him."
Bangladesh's performance will fill them with confidence ahead of Friday's clash with Sri Lanka in the final in Mirpur.