Every time they step on the field, Bangladesh seem to be making history. After having beaten West Indies for the first time in Tests and ODIs, they today sealed their first ODI series win against the hosts. More importantly, this win came by way of their highest successful chase in the limited-overs format, reaching the requisite 275 with six balls to spare.
At the centre of the accomplishment once again was Shakib Al Hasan, pulling West Indies back from a flying start, and then seeing his team through a tricky chase with a calm 65. Mohammad Ashraful, who got to back-to-back fifties for the first time since 2006, set up the Bangladesh reply after the openers struggled on a sluggish pitch that made it difficult to stroke the ball cleanly. The Shakib-Ashraful combination outdid an exceptional effort from Travis Dowlin, whose maiden international century lifted a fledgling West Indies to a fighting total.
Ashraful and Shakib came together after a sensible third-wicket partnership between Ashraful and Raqibul Hasan had ended, thanks to the pressure created by a slow pitch and tight bowling. Nevertheless, they had added 52 after the openers fell in a quick succession.
It was here that Ashraful took the lead, not letting the pressure mount. He first made room and slashed Bernard in the 28th over for the first boundary in 70 balls. When Rawl Lewis replaced Bernard in the next over, Ashraful lofted him over long-off for a six, bringing up his second fifty in three days. Shakib joined him in that charge, sweeping both Lewis and Bernard over midwicket. Those three overs brought Bangladesh 32 runs, and also brought down the asking-rate to less than six.
When Ashraful went for another six off Lewis, he put his team in a tricky state again, holing out to long-off. Until then, his 77-ball 64 had been well-paced, and he had added 74 with Shakib in 63 deliveries. But with 85 still required, Shakib had a major role to play. The boundaries were not easy to come - even Lewis negated the big sweep with googlies and straighter ones - but Shakib ran purposefully. He had to run all but six of his last 50 runs, but hardly did he ever let the scoring-rate fall.
During the match, the cameras panned to a spectator reading a magazine article on Shakib, titled the "Ice Man". Shakib indeed played like one, but needed some luck on his side. With 71 required off 60, Shakib tried to hit Lewis out of the ground, only skying it to land perfectly between cover and long-off, which also resulted in a collision between Darren Sammy and Bernard. That shot also took Shakib to his half-century, kicking off a spell of ordinary cricket from both sides.
With 56 needed off the last eight overs, Shakib called for the batting Powerplay, and Roach immediately threatened to finish the match in a hurry. Even before he could do that, Floyd Reifer almost let him bowl with five fielders outside the circle. Roach started with a half-volley and a fulltoss both hit for boundaries, before bowling his second beamer of the match to be removed from the attack. What's more, Shakib deposited it for a six.
Now it was the Ice Man's turn to falter with the match almost pocketed. He swung across the line to Sammy, getting out with 37 needed off 41. Three wides came in the next two overs before Bangladesh contributed their bit to the chaos. Devon Thomas, the designated wicketkeeper, had to bowl what was left of Roach's overs, and Mahmudullah gifted his second delivery with a leading edge. Riefer brought the fine leg up, Thomas saw two of his straight deliveries being punished and bowled two off-side wides to compensate. Mushfiqur returned the favour by hitting a fulltoss straight to cover. During that surreal period, the only question was which team wanted to lose more badly.
An overthrow here, an edge there, and Bangladesh reached the series win with an outside-edged boundary by Abdur Razzak. During this period of drama, the turnaround earlier in the day was almost forgotten.
For the majority of the first innings, both Dowlin and West Indies seemed to struggle to get the ball off the square against the spinners. West Indies had huffed and puffed their way to 176 for 4 in 40 overs, struggling to combat the grip and the turn. Dowlin's story was no different - he took 88 deliveries to reach his fifty and had trouble with his running between the wickets, too.
But with the Powerplay taken in the 41st over, things changed. Dowlin slog-swept the spinners with vengeance, getting close to the pitch every time, and hitting to long-on, cow corner, midwicket, square leg, et al. By the end of the Powerplay, West Indies had reached 216 for 5, and Dowlin 87 off 105 deliveries. In the next five overs, Dowlin took little time to reach his maiden century, and Lewis and Sammy made sure West Indies finished with 98 runs in their last ten overs. In the end, though, they were to be second-best.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo