Tamim gatecrashes Coventry's party
Charles Coventry made the joint highest individual score in an ODI but his effort was outweighed by a sparkling, cool-headed century from Tamim Iqbal, who broke the record for the most runs in an innings by a Bangladesh batsman. Coventry's blockbuster innings pushed Zimbabwe beyond 300, far more than Bangladesh have chased before, but the visitors were rarely troubled as they hunted down the target to take their third consecutive series.
Two things which stood out in Tamim's innings were the calmness he displayed, even when the required-rate started to soar, and the clean straight hitting - each of his six sixes were in the arc between long-on and long-off.
Bangladesh needed a solid opening stand after Coventry inspired Zimbabwe to 312, and Junaid Siddique and Tamim provided them that. Both openers were particularly harsh on Elton Chigumbura, who pitched the ball too short right through his opening spell. Junaid was the aggressor, hammering his way to a 27-ball 38 before, as has so often been the case, he threw away the start with a loose shot.
Junaid's dismissal, and the introduction of Zimbabwe's spinners, sucked the momentum out of the chase. Mohammad Ashraful took his time to settle, and Tamim cut out the big hits for a while, which made the asking-rate make a steady slide upwards.
Tamim was generally content to knock the ball around, but had short bursts when he hit out to keep Bangladesh in touch. One such was in the 22nd over; Malcolm Waller was blasted over long-on and long-off off consecutive deliveries, followed by a powerful cut for four. He also come down the track and cracked Price over long-on to push Bangladesh's run-rate up to six. There was a similar volley of brutal hitting in the 36th over, Hamilton Mazakadza being taken for a couple of big sixes.
Raqibul Hasan was also a calming influence, nudging the ball around for comfortable singles to keep the strike rotating. He added 119 with Tamim at nearly a run-a-ball before falling in the 37th over. Soon after, Chigumbura dropped a dolly at long-on, Tamim getting a reprieve on 118. Two new batsman and Zimbabwe could have applied more pressure. However, Bangladesh's best batsman, Shakib Al Hasan, made a 12-ball 19 and Tamim also opened out to slam the door shut on Zimbabwe. By the time Tamim was dismissed the target was only 34 away, which Bangladesh knocked off with 13 deliveries to spare.
It was the flattest of tracks, and Zimbabwe could have piled on even more than 312 had Coventry got a little more support. It was a superbly paced innings from him; Coventry provided the impetus after the early dismissal of Mark Vermeulen, then tempered his aggression when wickets tumbled around him in the middle overs, before finishing off with an awesome display of power hitting. What made it even more astonishing was that the next highest score in the innings was 37, 157 less than Coventry. It was also his first ODI century, and he had never before crossed 106 in any form of senior cricket.
He stomped on the gas soon after reaching his hundred in the 38th over, particularly targeting the swathe from long-on to midwicket, where he slammed six of his seven sixes. Still, at the end of the 42nd over he was on 129, and the world record didn't seem in his sights. By the end of the 47th he was on 180, and all the interest was around whether he would make an ODI double-century, a feat not achieved in 2872 previous one-dayers.
He only managed three singles in the 48th, but a massive six over long-on took him 191 with the final over still to come. A drive to cover on the first ball took him off strike, and he wasn't back facing the bowling till the final delivery; Tawanda Mupariwa was dismissed off the second and Prosper Utseya faced the next three. Two were needed to equal Saeed Anwar's 12-year-old mark, and a tired punch straight past the bowler gave Coventry a share of the record. His final 91 had come off 43 deliveries.
Bangladesh would have been facing a far smaller target had Syed Rasel held on to a simple catch at deep square leg when Coventry was only 13. Coventry was then dropped on 137 in the 44th over, with Mahmudullah the culprit at square leg. Coventry celebrated by plundering 16 each off the next two overs, the crowds behind midwicket kept busy by the balls hammered by Coventry.
In the end, his effort didn't prove to be enough, as Tamim, a placid pitch and shoddy Zimbabwean bowling and fielding combined to ruin Coventry's day. A month ago, the most Bangladesh had chased successfully was 250, a mark they have improved on twice since, a sign of the progress they have made.
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo