Mashrafe lifts his charges out of first ODI gloom

Mashrafe's opening spell put Bangladesh on top and they rarely let up in England's chase Getty Images

May 12, 2007 was the last time Mashrafe Mortaza scored 40 runs in an ODI. It had also been exactly eight years to the day since his last ODI four-wicket haul. He chose the right time to bring up both landmarks once again to lift a Bangladesh team to a much-needed win over England.

After the shock of the first ODI in which Bangladesh collapsed spectacularly, Mashrafe could see that his teammates were feeling very disappointed. On the night after that game, they were in his room till the early hours, chatting away and trying to make sense of the batting collapse.

"We were up till 3am that night, sitting and talking in my room," Mashrafe said. "We tried to forget about the game and talk about other stuff. But it was tough not to. We talked about how we made a mistake in the end again. The last match was easier to win compared to the India defeat in the World T20. It was nice to see the comeback.

"Team comes first for me. Anyone could have been the player of the match today. I am happy that we won today. We were shocked and disappointed with the last game. We were feeling down till the warm-up session today. But we believed that a moment can change everything."

And that moment came when he lifted the team with the bat from a dire position, and then took three wickets in his first spell that detached England from the 239-run chase.

On the previous occasion that he took an ODI four-for, his bowling had inspired Bangladesh to their first-ever win over New Zealand. The win had also come just weeks after several Bangladesh players had defected to the rebel Indian Cricket League, which nearly decimated Bangladesh cricket. There was talk at the time that New Zealand were facing a below-standard home side but Mashrafe and later Junaid Siddique and Mohammad Ashraful brought the much-needed victory.

The four-for in Mirpur on Sunday came in a much different era. This is the greatest time in Bangladesh cricket ever since they became a Test-playing nation. They have won six home bilateral ODI series in a row. There is experience in the ranks while young guns are firing almost regularly. The only danger this time was breaking that sequence of successive series wins.

Struggling at 169 for 7, Bangladesh looked down the barrel, and were certainly just steps away from conceding the series to a rampant England side who quickly grabbed the whole idea of battling the humidity, using the sluggish pitch and using their fast bowlers' physical strength to conjure bounce to attack the Bangladesh batsmen.

Mashrafe's delightful 44 off 29 balls changed the course of the game. He started off with two sixes against Moeen Ali, before a swat off David Willey landed just beyond the long-on fielder. One of the fours was a hilarious swat that he tried to move away from, but ended up middling to the midwicket fence. He said that after some poor innings against Afghanistan and in the first ODI against England, he decided he would revert back to his old ways of swinging from the hip.

"I think this is the right approach for my batting," Mashrafe said. "It is best to go on the offensive with the bat, not get bogged down by pressure. I thought that I should play shots today."

But it was with the ball that he made more impact. He cut one away from James Vince who scooped the catch to point in the fourth over, before cutting another slightly back into Jason Roy who was trapped leg-before. To Ben Stokes, he bowled a full seam-up delivery that moved back in. It is heard that Mashrafe was shown this delivery, where the seam wobbles only slightly, from the new bowling coach Courtney Walsh.

Mashrafe said that getting the new ball again was a challenge but he used all of his experience to eke out the first three wickets, before he finished off the dangerous 45-run last wicket stand with his fourth scalp.

"In 2015, I couldn't bowl with the new ball," Mashrafe said. "Now that Mustafiz isn't here, I am having to do it. Mustafiz took most of the wickets so without him it becomes challenging. I am trying to do a good job with the ball.

"Fitness obviously makes a difference [to how well I bowl]. Last year, I bowled after 15 overs in most matches. I didn't get swing with my seam-up bowling with that ball, so I bowled my variation. I bowled more seam-up deliveries but got two wickets with cutters."

Regardless of Mashrafe's own contributions, the Bangladesh captain said that Taskin Ahmed's second spell, that also drew three crucial wickets including that of Jos Buttler, was what changed the game for Bangladesh.

"I asked Shakib and Mushfiq to think what we can do," Mashrafe said. "We had options between Mosaddek, Taskin and Sabbir. But then I kept faith in Taskin. He is my main bowler, and has pace. He bowled extraordinarily, and took three wickets. The game came back to us through his performance.

"Taskin bowled very fast at his best rhythm. If he didn't take those wickets, we wouldn't have won the game. His spell was outstanding. Top fast bowlers bowl match-winning spells, and I see his that way."