Ashraful ton charges Bangladesh to easy win
A disciplined bowling performance restricted Zimbabwe to a below-par 207 before Mohammad Ashraful led the chase with a breezy ton to help Bangladesh clinch a facile win in the first ODI in Bulawayo. Mark Vermeulen hit a fluent 92 on his comeback after five years but didn't find much support from his team-mates.
On an easy-paced track, Bangladesh didn't have any problems against the weak Zimbabwean attack. Ashraful built on a good platform laid by Tamim Iqbal and Junaid Siddique; he never looked in any problem and took a special liking to the left-arm spin of Ray Price. In the 15th over, bowled by Price, he hit four boundaries including a handsome six over long-on.
It was an imperious performance as he moved down the track and backed away outside leg stump to force errors from Price. The best shot was a neat inside-out lofted drive over extra cover off Price. He also played some delightful shots to the seamers, the highlight of which was a neat swivel pull off Hamilton Masakadza. He brought up his third ODI hundred with a delicate late cut off Mazakadza. It was his day; not only did he pick up a wicket off the first ball he bowled but also brought up 3000 ODI runs.
Ashraful's task was made easier by the brisk start provided by the openers. Tamim started off with two fours in the first over - a cut and an off drive - but it was Siddique who started off like a runaway express against Chamu Chibhaba. He hit three successive off-side boundaries in the second over, a caressed cover drive being the highlight, and followed it with two successive boundaries in the fourth over before hitting one straight to mid-off.
Prosper Utseya introduced spin as early as the sixth over, bringing himself on, but neither he nor Price could pose any problems as Tamim and Ashraful eased themselves with several classy drives and cuts.
The victory was set up earlier by some disciplined bowling from the Bangladesh. Only Vermeulen resisted the disciplined attack with a degree of comfort. He has a troubled past and last played for Zimbabwe in 2004 but today put on a pleasing show as he caressed his way to a fine half-century. His best shot came in the 12th over against Nazmul Hossain when he stood tall to play a punchy cover drive, one of the many off-side shots he hit. Vermeulen has been always strong off the back foot and today was no different.
He repeatedly rocked back to punch the ball on either side of the square. There was a delicate late-cut boundary against Shakib Al Hasan which stood out in his play against the spinners. He was a touch lucky to survive a palpable shout for lbw when Shakib rapped him on the pads with an arm ball and he was also dropped by Nazmul at deep midwicket off the same bowler. However, Vermeulen shrugged it off and proceeded to look comfortable against spin and seam. Post fifty, he grew more cautious and proceeded to deal in singles and looked set for a hundred when he was run out eight runs short of the landmark.
There wasn't much support from his team-mates barring, to an extent, Brendan Taylor. Taylor started off with a flicked four but the shot of his stay was a firm cover drive for three against Syed Rasel. He nudged his way around and was beginning to build a partnership when he was adjudged lbw against Shakib when he perhaps got an inside edge.
Bangladesh's disciplined bowling fetched them two early wickets. Rasel induced an edge from Masakadza in the first over with a delivery that shaped away while Nazmul coaxed Chibhaba into nicking behind. Elton Chigumbura threw his bat in the end to get some handy runs in the batting Powerplay but Zimbabwe fell short of a competitive score.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo