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With a 121-run loss in the first match, Zimbabwe have the motivation they need to pull up their socks. Bangladesh, on the other hand, must guard against complacency
May 3, 2013
Bangladesh's margin of victory was 121 runs but if the game was narrowed down to the two middle-order collapses, it was still touch-and-go. But Bangladesh recovered better to nudge out Zimbabwe. Those who have seen the two teams battle on this tour would know the visitors would do well to not rest on their laurels.
The home side have the motivation to improve their performances after a shoddy display. There's a precedent on this tour that the team with extra motivation has bounced back well in the next game, but complacency is also a challenge.
Even during Bangladesh's finest period in the field, the captain was aware of such slipping standards from his team. After the seventh Zimbabwe wicket fell for 93 runs, Mushfiqur Rahim cried out to his players to keep their focus and not take things for granted.
As it happened, and it has happened far too often before, the bowlers looked for wickets and the fielders relaxed. They gave away 55 runs in the eighth-wicket partnership between Malcolm Waller and Shingi Masakadza.
In the end, it may not have mattered much but this was one of the many moments when complacency crept into Bangladesh's game. They collapsed from 65 for no loss to 94 for 4 in the space of 7.3 overs. It was a sign that some of the batsmen either felt too relaxed against a slower bowling attack or were cowed down by the pressure.
Tamim Iqbal and Mohammad Ashraful were certainly eyeing the bowlers to make big scores. They took it too easily, one thought, not pushing for the second or third run when available and trying instead to find the four-balls. It kept the run-rate on an even keel, but their approach held them back. The dismissals were reflective of their mindset, both offering catches to deliveries sliding down the legside.
Mushfiqur and Shakib Al Hasan, two senior batsmen who were among the trio to score two fifties in the Test series, fell in the space of five deliveries. Mushfiqur played too far from his body, though Shakib Al Hasan hardly had much to do with the calling in his run-out. Mominul Haque and Nasir Hossain, too, gave away their wickets, while Mahmudullah's slog didn't connect.
This meant all seven recognised batsmen were dismissed by their own shot selection (and poor calling), and the Zimbabwe bowlers had little to do. In fact, it was a relatively poor day for the Zimbabwe attack, as the bowlers gave away many freebies and wides, while bowling a predominantly legside line.
Their batsmen, on the other hand, suffered after losing their inspirational captain Brendan Taylor. From 78 for 2, they slipped to 93 for 7 in 6.3 overs. They looked rudderless without Taylor, as the likes of Sean Williams, Hamilton Masakadza and Elton Chigumbura departed quietly. Before them, it was Regis Chakabva and debutant Sikandar Raza, who left gaps between their bat and pad to be bowled by Shafiul Islam.
Nasir clinched the game for Bangladesh with his 68 but Ziaur Rahman, too, must be praised for his persistence with the ball, despite his limited pace and movement. He has now taken nine Zimbabwe wickets in consecutive innings, and this performance particularly highlights that the tour has been a battle of minds more than experience, form or quality.
Ziaur is, at best, a medium-pacer who can work his shoulder to generate some speed on the ball. But the home batsmen have found it hard to get him away, either trying to hit out or being too cautious. Bangladesh's batsmen have played Tendai Chatara and Tinashe Panyangara with a similar approach, too.
The Test series has been attritional with high competition in the early and middle part of matches before one side pulled away for a big win. Zimbabwe won the first Test by 335 runs before losing by 143 runs. Now they have lost badly in the first game and are likely to bounce back with more urgency.
In the middle of the IPL, these two teams have firmly kept their fans glued to the matches. The see-saw battle will continue for the rest of the series, but it will certainly be a series where common sense will be the defining factor for the team that emerges on top.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets hereFeeds: Mohammad Isam
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Shorter tours don't allow you time to get into form, and domestic cricket isn't demanding enough