Taskin Ahmed had dual roles to fill against Pakistan on Wednesday evening. His pace makes him a natural enforcer, but as Mashrafe Mortaza, the captain, said after their five-wicket win against Pakistan, Taskin was also tasked to set up the game in the absence of Mustafizur Rahman.
What he had to do was bowl a tight spell with the new ball, and when brought back into the attack later in the game, get them wickets. He gave away just 14 runs in his four overs, taking the key wicket of Umar Akmal.
Given extra responsibility, Taskin did not cut down on his pace. Rather, he bowled at his usual 140kph regularly and maintained a great line just on and outside off-stump. At his best, Taskin has been known to bowl really quickly and get edges with natural outswingers. But this time, he kept his shape in the three spells, which translated into a fine overall bowling performance from Bangladesh.
In the first over of the game, he gave Khurram Manzoor no chance to free his arms, and followed it up by bowling a maiden to Mohammad Hafeez, his first in T20Is. When Mashrafe gave Taskin a break after two overs, Bangladesh might have feared that Taskin would lose his rhythm. However, when he was brought back in the ninth over, he picked up the wicket of Akmal and gave away just a single. This is what a set-up man usually does, and Taskin kept ticking those boxes for Mashrafe.
The task of bowling in the last three overs fell with both Taskin as well as Al-Amin Hossain, due to Mustafizur's absence. Now, the set-up man had to finish well, and he escaped mostly unscathed by bowling wide yorkers to Sarfaraz Ahmed. Though Taskin did not end with more wickets, he had made his captain happy by taking up a role that did not call for other players to pick up the pieces.
"Taskin did what Mustafizur generally has been doing for us, which is to set up the game," Mashrafe said. "He was strong mentally and did well throughout the game. I will say that he was very positive and that's why he was rewarded. Taskin set it up and then Al-Amin finished the game in the end. It was challenging, but I am happy that the players managed to take the pressure. This is a sign of a grown-up team which doesn't wait for someone else to do their job."
Taskin has been unlucky in this Asia Cup too, with Shakib Al Hasan dropping Rohit Sharma at point off his bowling and Soumya Sarkar dropping three catches at slip in the matches against UAE and Sri Lanka.
There have been times in the recent past, including earlier in this tournament, when Taskin has shown the tendency to stray on both sides of the wicket, because of his interest to bowl fast. After Shakib dropped Rohit, Taskin bowled three wide deliveries outside off-stump that were duly put away for fours and a six.
Taskin bowls a mean bouncer and also has a slower delivery, but he sometimes telegraphs both too soon. He has an inswinger to the right-handed batsmen that can become a weapon, but he seldom uses it, banking mostly on his outswinger. What has worked for him in this Asia Cup is his consistency in bowling above 140kph, and then backing it up with tight lines, mostly in the first spell. But as he showed against Pakistan, he can do that in the later overs too.
Mashrafe said that he still missed Mustafizur in the last ten overs, especially since Pakistan got away with 95 runs during that period. "I was missing Mustafizur today. If he was around, we would have had to chase 15 runs less. Our entire team is missing him. We are hopeful that he will come back before the World T20. It was challenging for us, to restrict them below 130."
Taskin is prone to injuries, so he has been well taken care of by the support staff. But now, slowly, he has to come out of that shell, and the clash against Pakistan was a first step in his evolution as a fast bowler. He faced a tough challenge, took on a new role, and made sure he bowled a spell that would not be noticed in the long-run, but have an impact on him and the team immediately.