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Mushfiqur breaks the second-fiddle jinx

Mushfiqur Rahim was overjoyed upon reaching hundred AFP

When Tamim Iqbal reached an ODI hundred after more than two years, the man at the other end was likely to be forgotten. Add his burning celebration to the mix and it gets harder to keep track of anything else was happening in the match.

And had Mushfiqur Rahim not scored his third ODI century, his innings could have added to the countless little gems of ODI cricket drowned out by a higher score or a more celebrated performance.

Like when Mahmudullah made 103 against England in Adelaide last month and Mushfiqur's 89 was hardly mentioned. He had come in at 99 for 4, took the attack to the England bowlers and sustained the approach during a 141-run fifth-wicket stand.

Mushfiqur has played such attractive second fiddles in the past too. His career-saving 81 against Australia four years ago was trumped by Shane Watson's 185. Anamul Haque's 120 got more air time than Mushfiqur's 79 against West Indies in 2012. On all three occasions, Mushfiqur's batting was as composed as any other batsman that day and his clean striking did stand out. But he was quickly forgotten.

Today too Mushfiqur's numbers were second to Tamim. But weighing the two innings in terms of overall confidence, attractiveness of strokes and usefulness to the team's cause, Mushfiqur's 106 went toe-to-toe with Tamim's 132.

Mushfiqur has been in good form since the end of the 2011 World Cup, so it was not surprising to see him start quite fluently. Mahmudullah said in an interview recently that Mushfiqur doesn't need 15-20 balls, like he does, to get set. Today, Mushfiqur reached 26 off his first 20 deliveries with four fours, and did not relent.

He peppered the zone between mid-off and cover with drives and inside-out chips. He found the boundary seven times in this area, apart from the slog-sweep, his bread and butter. He swept two sixes through square leg and midwicket, apart from three more fours through that region.

Mushfiqur bats with a high back-lift which gives him a bigger arc to hit over cover or midwicket. The ones through the on-side are cross batted but his form ensures that he seldom mistimes them. He raced to his fifty off only 42 balls, and as he often does, quickened his pace thereafter. He missed out on very few half-volleys or overpitched deliveries from the quicks. Spin was easily dealt with too. Both his sixes came off Saeed Ajmal in the 43rd over, but the highlight of his innings was a precisely placed cover drive off Wahab Riaz in the 36th over.

Tamim's dismissal did not slow Mushfiqur down either, as he reached the hundred with two cute late cuts against consecutive Ajmal deliveries. It was off his 69th delivery, the third-fastest ODI century by a Bangladeshi batsman.

What helped Mushfiqur make a serene start was that he faced only three deliveries from a front-line bowler for the first nine overs of his stay, all from Rahat Ali. By the time Junaid Khan got a chance to bowl at him, he had moved to 36 off 31 balls. Pakistan also let him get away with a few slog sweeps early by keeping deep midwicket vacant. And there was also the dropped catch by Junaid when he was on 35.

The social media in Bangladesh will be filled with Tamim's hundred and his celebratory gestures but Mushfiqur's consistency deserves equal, if not more, attention. Since the end of the 2011 World Cup, he has hit the most sixes and fours for Bangladesh. He has the most 50-plus scores and is equal with Anamul Haque for the most hundreds during this period. He has faced the most deliveries, has the most runs with 2016, the second-best batting average. He has been a bit part of Bangladesh's recent consistency, something they have sought after for the 29 years they have been on the one-day scene. You could talk about that, too.