Tillekaratne Dilshan and Tamim Iqbal corroborated at the end of the first ODI that the Hambantota wicket had become flatter in the second innings. There was dew too in the evening, but even such decisive factors hardly explained why the Bangladesh pace bowlers served up a buffet of half-volleys and over-pitched deliveries.Rubel Hossain and Abul Hasan gave away 96 runs in their combined 10 overs, giving a measure of where pace bowling stands in the side after a spate of injuries. But Rubel is considered one of the frontliners even when the likes of Mashrafe Mortaza, Shafiul Islam and Nazmul Hossain were fit. Now that none of these three is in Sri Lanka, it had to be Rubel and Abul taking up the baton but they seem to have dropped it even before taking off, so to say.The seven boundaries in the first three overs jolted the Bangladesh side to the degree that the five-plus required run-rate in the remaining 38 overs hardly mattered as their body language slumped. Such a start, more often than not, leads to desperation and although captain Mushfiqur Rahim tried to rotate the bowlers, the conditions, the wicket and the lack of confidence among the pace bowlers could not restrict the hosts.The conditions remain an advantage to the pace bowlers, and there are other encouraging factors for them in the next two games too. Ziaur Rahman's steady eight overs showed how control is possible, although he did not bowl during the powerplay. Rubel and Abul have the potential and they have the best chance to show their ability in this series when they are under pressure to bounce back.Coach Shane Jurgensen remained steadfast about the pace bowlers who have been under his guidance for the last year and a half. He wants them to bounce back quickly if Bangladesh are to have any chance in staying alive in the three-match series."We were playing one-dayers after quite some time but we should have acclimatised quickly," Jurgensen said. "We have to bowl better tomorrow, try to hit a good length and make sure our team remains in the hunt."But there was frustration in his tone. As someone who even walks around the boundary rope to speak to the pace bowlers, it is quite clear that the first half hour on Saturday wasn't comfortable for Jurgensen either.Tamim too backed the pace bowlers and hoped they would improvise soon. "The wicket changed in the second half," he said. "It wasn't easy at first, but dew helped the ball come nicely on to the bat."I wouldn't point the finger at anyone because we back each other when one of the departments doesn't do well."It was also noteworthy how the poor lengths bowled by the two pace bowlers affected the spinners. Mushfiqur has often brought on a left-arm spinner within the first powerplay, but on this occasion even the trusted Abdur Razzak got sucked into either too full or too wide a length. Sohag Gazi too had a hard time controlling the slippery ball.Mushfiqur and Jurgensen will be focused on getting their pace bowlers' lengths right for the second game. They could enforce a change by bringing in the replacement Shahadat Hossain straight off the plane, dropping either Rubel or Abul.But the decision of bringing back the erratic pace bowler into the one-day team is a move that has to be questioned. Whether the team's needs are understood properly is a question that can be posed to Mushfiqur, Jurgensen and the selectors.
19dThe Interview by Vishal Dikshit in Mumbai
21dAndrew McGlashan in Melbourne
4dSreshth Shah and Gaurav Sundararaman