Razzak and Shakib seal Bangladesh win
Shakib Al Hasan, yet again, was the architect of Bangladesh's success as he delivered a fine all-round performance to lead his team to a 52-run win, their first over West Indies, in the series opener in Dominica. His fighting half-century helped his team post a formidable total on a slow pitch; his tactic of opening the bowling with left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak succeeded in denting West Indies early in their chase, and his dismissal of Devon Smith helped strangle the resistance which threatened to cause an upset. Mohammad Ashraful and Mahmudullah backed the effort with important contributions while fighting through a disciplined bowling performance led by Kemar Roach's five-for.
West Indies showed few signs of learning from their mistakes in the Test series. Inept footwork combined with poor shot selection from their batsmen produced a top-order collapse on a track favouring slow bowlers. Shakib, without hesitation, opened the bowling with Razzak, who made a successful return to international cricket after being suspended for a suspect action. Accustomed to sharing the new ball - he had opened the bowling in the 2007 World Cup - he struck with his second ball, trapping Dale Richards in front and returned to bowl Travis Dowlin, who was found cutting too close to an arm ball. Razzak stuck to a flat trajectory, varied his pace, got the ball to grip and surprised the batsmen with both turn and bounce.
The arrival of the left-handed Floyd Reifer prompted another ploy from Shakib. Mahmudullah - the offspinner who had dismissed Reifer on four occasions in the Test series - was brought on, and he soon had the West Indies captain swinging across the line to be caught at point.
West Indies had to rely on their old hand Smith, and again on Dave Bernard, who struck three half-centuries in the Test series, to stage a recovery. The pair opened up once Razzak was given a break, using their feet and opting to play the spinners straight while ensuring the strike kept rotating after the second Powerplay. Smith's workmanlike 65 included just three fours, but he pierced the field with consistency while Bernard, the more cautious of the two, was prompt to see off any quiet phase with the pressure-relieving boundary. Their stand of 78 came close to evening out proceedings before Shakib made the change, bringing himself on in the 29th over to trap Smith in front while sweeping across the line. The call was marginal as it appeared to be just clipping leg, but proved decisive. Bernard scored just one run off Shakib's next over, and holed out one ball later to put the visitors in control. Though the lower order kept the crowd intrigued, stepping up the pace, Razzak hit back with two more wickets to seal the finish.
The comprehensive win marked a contrast to the start of play for Bangladesh. The hosts delivered the best possible start to the Dominican crowd, witnessing their first international fixture, when Roach got opener Tamim Iqbal to edge one first ball. The overnight and early morning showers had made their mark on the pitch and the four-pronged pace attack was expected to thrive on the movement on offer. But Roach and debutant Nelon Pascal, another slinger on the international scene, faced a counter-attack.
Determined to make amends for a woeful Test series, Ashraful crafted an innings with traces of his usual flamboyance. Along with Junaid Siddique, he forged a methodical stand of 74 for the second wicket. Being instinctively aggressive, they went for their shots and, despite the early loss, promptly dealt with anything pitched up or dropped short. Though there were the inevitable plays and misses from Ashraful, it was not his often senseless style of batting that had proved his undoing on many an occasion. Good balls were treated with caution and the loose deliveries, like the two rare ones from Roach in his fourth over, were cannoned through cover and over midwicket.
The pair dealt mainly in boundaries in the first Powerplay but became subdued once the restrictions were lifted. Sammy and Bernard maintained a tight line and gave very little away despite a spread out field. The boundaries dried up, the singles were infrequent and one of the batsmen snapped not too long after Reifer tempted him by taking the second Powerplay. Siddique's failed attempt to clear mid-off earned Bernard his reward for persistence.
The combination of Roach - who dismissed Raqibul Hasan with the first ball of his second spell - and Bernard worked superbly as both remained consistent with their lines, teasing the batsmen just outside off. Bernard, in particular, was accurate and showed excellent stamina, bowling ten overs on the trot.
With the surface beginning to hold up and the spinners introduced, Ashraful and Shakib shed their aggressiveness and relied on nudges, dabs and sweeps. And when the time for acceleration came, it was Mahmudullah who cut loose, breaking a 104-ball boundary drought with a six off Lewis. Shakib joined in the act to smack two fours off Nikita Miller to reach his half-century. Though Roach bagged three wickets in his final spell, 43 runs had come off the final Powerplay, boosting Bangladesh to a match-winning total.
Siddhartha Talya is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo