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Shakib Al Hasan soars at No. 3 even as Bangladesh slip to defeat

The story goes back to the time when Chandika Hathurusingha was Bangladesh's coach. Shakib Al Hasan told him that he wanted to bat at No. 3 in ODIs after establishing himself as this spot in T20Is for Bangladesh. But Hathurusingha didn't agree. Shakib tried to convince him, but Hathurusingha would not have any of it. The conversation was tense, apparently.

But from the first ODI following Hathurusingha's departure, Shakib started batting in his desired spot. There were people to convince too, but the likes of captain Mashrafe Mortaza and BCB president Nazmul Hassan and his coterie of directors were easier to get on side.

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Shakib has certainly justified himself at No. 3. Since the start of 2018, he averages 52.76 in 19 innings so far, culminating in his last six innings producing four fifties and a century. His last four innings read 50 not out, 75, 64 and 121. He is also, for now, the leading run-scorer at the World Cup.

He has looked right at home, which was evident in this latest innings too. Shakib took on Chris Woakes, Mark Wood and Liam Plunkett, as well as hitting Adil Rashid for 31 off 25 balls. He already had the chops for tackling spin, and is now showing his ability against pace. In fact, Shakib can now be regarded as the one who has fixed this position for Bangladesh, after Sabbir Rahman and Mominul Haque, among others, couldn't nail down the place.

Shakib said that he had to convince the decision-makers to let him bat at No. 3, although he still faces questions about filling in the position. he added that he wanted to take the opportunity to be more involved in batting.

"It was my decision [to bat at No. 3]," Shakib said. "I had to convince everyone. If I don't score runs in a single match, they think that I should be bat at No. 5. I had to convince a lot of people to bat at No. 3, but it is working at this moment.

WATCH on Hotstar (India only) - Shakib's century

"It is different. You need to face different challenges. I am enjoying it at the moment. Having said that, it is just the start. I need to contribute with both bat and ball. I thought [batting at No. 3] is a better opportunity for me to contribute more with the bat. But there are plenty of matches in this tournament left."

Shakib said that at one stage in his 106-run third-wicket stand with Mushfiqur Rahim, they actually believed they could gun down England's 387-run target. "I thought anything between 320 and 330 was something we could have felt comfortable chasing," he said. "We were two wickets down in 30 overs, with 180 on the board. From there you can think of chasing 320-330 if we had wickets in hand. But 387 was always against our favour.

"We wanted to see where we are at the 30-over mark. After the 30th over, we needed around 200. In a T20 game, you can reach that total if you bat really well. We always knew that we were against the run of play but we held that belief for a little time."

Shakib said the particular challenge of taking on the rapid Jofra Archer and Wood invigorated him. "They were quick, but I enjoyed the difficult challenge," he said. "They are the two quickest bowler in the World Cup. It was tough but I felt very happy the way I played them."

His century was one of the bright spots in a day when Bangladesh lost much of what they gained against South Africa and New Zealand. Shakib now holds the key as many of his team-mates haven't quite hit their strides. A fine start such as this is sure to set him up to flourish in the rest of the tournament.