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March 16, 2014
Afghanistan were stifled by dot balls, a skill rarely displayed by the Bangladesh bowlers and that pressure led the hosts to bowl out an opponent for the first time in T20s during a nine-wicket win to begin their World T20 campaign.
Mohammad Shahzad's growing reputation as a big-hitting opening batsman, even in Bangladesh's domestic cricket, made him a big wicket for the home side. When he lashed out at Mashrafe Mortaza's first delivery and got caught at mid-off, it put Bangladesh in the front foot.
"Mashrafe bhai gave us the early breakthrough," Shakib Al Hasan said. "The fielding was good and the spinners got into the game quickly. It was important to start off with a wicket off the first ball. We played well overall in all three departments."
Mashrafe, Al-Amin Hossain and Shakib strung 24 dot balls between them during the Powerplay, which set up the three wickets that Afghanistan lost in that period. Importantly, Bangladesh's bowlers kept up the momentum throughout the innings. They bowled 67 dot balls in the 17.1 overs. Noticeably and even statistically, this was the Bangladesh bowlers at their best in the shortest format.
"It is always slightly difficult playing against teams like Afghanistan," Shakib said. "You don't know what's coming your way. Someone from No. 7 or 8 can blast the bowlers. Or someone can suddenly bowl well. It will be wrong to make predictions against them, so it is important to look after ourselves, and look to improve in every game.
"The two run-outs were vital, both were good batsmen. Though we dropped a catch, our fielding was good overall. [Mahmudullah] Riyad bhai took two good catches. It usually lifts the morale of the team, which is important for a T20 game."
Shakib insisted he was in a good frame of mind before the game, though there had been talk of unease and nerves in the dressing-room. Few days ago, captain Mushfiqur Rahim had called it a "revenge game".
"I think I was more relaxed before this game than any other match previously. I think our whole team knew that we will win and it will be a one-sided game," Shakib said. "I was about to throw a banana skin in the bin, I said if it falls inside, they will score 40 and if it doesn't they will make 80. They made 72."
But Shakib did confess to the team being relieved, particularly as the win helped avoid an early exit. "I said before that if we play to our potential, Afghanistan won't stand a chance," he said. "It [an upset] can happen once in a while. The pressure has been relieved. It was important to start off well so I am happy and relieved."
What also worked for Bangladesh, and it can easily get lost in all the hype of a big win, is the combination, especially in the spin department. The pitch in Chittagong wouldn't be too different, so there will remain enough reason to stick to this team, which looked more streamlined and focused for T20s.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets hereFeeds: Mohammad Isam
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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