Shakib scripts convincing win
Shakib Al Hasan starred with a delightfully aggressive ton as Bangladesh recorded their second straight win in the five-match series against Zimbabwe. Tamim Iqbal laid the platform with a patient half-century before Shakib took over to propel Bangladesh to their highest ODI score. Zimbabwe put up a fight, courtesy fine half-centuries from Charles Coventry and Sean Williams, but the target proved beyond their reach.
Bangladesh's strategy in the field was simple: keep a tight line and wait for the pressure of the steep target to start telling on the batsmen. And it worked. Coventry provided some momentum to the chase by counterattacking after the early wickets. There was a very skillful hit over extra-cover against Syed Rasel and a couple of big sixes against the offspinner Naeem Islam but he fell trying to keep pace with the asking rate.
Post Coventry's exit, Williams played a gem of a cameo, filled with improvisations, but he too became a victim of the run-rate. He notched up his highest ODI score and not only used his feet well against the spinners but also repeatedly put the reverse sweep to good effect to upset the rhythm of the bowlers. He ran hard between the wickets and kept picking singles and twos to keep the scorecard moving. Near the end of the chase, he took more risks, charging out to the seamers as well. He sashayed down the track and heaved Nazmul Hossain to the cowcorner and slapped him over covers but fell while failing to clear long-on. Elton Chigumbura biffed around in the end to raise the home side's hopes but could only succeed in reducing the margin of the loss.
Bangladesh's win was set up by their batsmen led by Shakib, who provided momentum with an imposing knock. Bangladesh were 108 for 1 in 25 overs but Shakib ensured that they finished strongly.
The feature of his innings was his skill in repeatedly picking the gaps: there were quite a few hits over extra cover, a few to the straight boundary and many swings to midwicket. He started carefully, dealing in singles and twos to reach 15, before breaking free with two pulled boundaries. The explosion started in the 38th over, bowled by the part-time spinner Williams, with Shakib, who was denied the services of a runner just prior to the over, swinging twice over midwicket boundary. He went on to crash Ray Price to the straight boundary before lifting Prosper Utseya over long-off and twice over extra-cover as he made full use of the batting Powerplay.
He was aided by some poor fielding and was dropped twice in the inner circle: when he was on 59, Stuart Matsikenyeri spilled a sitter at midwicket off an attempted reverse-sweep against Utseya and when he was on 71, Price dropped another off a top-edged paddle-sweep.
Shakib went on the rampage after the twin drops. He looted 19 runs, with the help of three boundaries that included a stunning six over long-off, off the 44th over bowled by Chamu Chibhaba. He brought up the hundred in 63 balls and celebrated it with a cheeky scoop shot off Ed Rainsford before he was run out going for the third run after Mushfiqur Rahim had slashed to deep point. Rahim sought to make amends for his mistake with some big hitting in the end to push Bangladesh well past 300.
The platform was laid earlier in the day by Tamim, who forged a more staid partnership with Junaid Siddique at the top of the order. Only four fours came in the first fifteen overs and only one boundary was hit in the air. It not only reflected the intent of the batsmen but also the disciplined lines and length of the new-ball bowlers Elton Chigumbura and Rainsford. If there was to be any criticism, it has to be said that they perhaps strayed to the middle and leg line a touch too often against Tamim, which shows up in his wagon wheel: Tamim picked 48 runs on the on side.
For their part, the batsmen were absolutely focused on playing themselves in before going for their shots. Things were looking good when Siddique was run out. He pushed Utseya, who brought himself on in the 11th over, to the left of short midwicket, was caught in a yes-no situation with Tamim and couldn't get back to his crease in time. Tamim, himself, was run out soon in a comical fashion. He had missed to connect a leg-side delivery but was stranded in the middle due to a faulty call from Shakib and was easily run out by the keeper. However, it didn't prove to be a major set back as Shakib set the stadium ablaze with his power-hitting.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo