Habibul Bashar celebrates after Bangladesh race to a thumping win in the decider at Dhaka
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Bangladesh clinched the one-day series with an emphatic eight-wicket win over Zimbabwe at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka. By cruising past their modest target of 198, Bangladesh registered their first-ever one-day series triumph and completed one of the most scintillating comebacks in recent memory. After being outplayed in the opening two games, they turned the tables around with three successive victories and became only the second side in history - after South Africa beat Pakistan in 2002-03 - to win a five-match ODI series after being 2-0 down.
The first four matches had all gone in favour of the team batting first and earlier it looked as though the fifth would head that way, too, as Zimbabwe's batsmen got themselves into a strong position to launch an attack at 100 for 2. But Bangladesh's three-pronged left-arm spin attack choked the runs in the middle overs, and the last eight wickets fell for 59. Despite the relatively small target, the chase was never expected to be so easy - but Aftab Ahmed and Mohammad Rafique cut the bowling to shreds in a riveting 150-run second-wicket partnership and raced to the finish line with some audacious strokeplay.
Aftab came out after Nafis Iqbal fell in the third over and started as he meant to go on: in belligerent mood. Bangladesh reached 100 in the 13th over as they savaged Tinashe Panyangara and Chris Mpofu for fours and sixes. Elton Chigumbura came on to stem the flow - but the move proved extremely costly. He was greeted with a clattered six over fine leg before four rasping fours followed as he was taken for 24 runs. With a clinical exhibition of shots all around the park, Aftab powered to his fifty in a mere 33 balls. At the other end, Rafique thrilled the crowd with his customary swagger and his daring lofts amid a few cheeky paddle sweeps - and he continually frustrated the bowlers. By the end of the 15th over, Bangladesh had sprinted to 119 and it was all one-way traffic from that point.
Zimbabwe brought Prosper Utseya, their best bowler in the series, back into the attack in their final attempt to stop the carnage. But, although he was steady, the batsmen didn't need to take any risks and they continued to play a steady game, collecting the occasional boundary. Rafique brought up his 50 in 46 balls and continued to play some bold shots while Aftab, who had done enough to crush Zimbabwe's spirits by then, was content to shift to a lower gear.
Rafique finally fell for 72 when Utseya latched on to a skier at midwicket but Habibul Bashar
completed the formalities with a breezy 34 and smashed the winning runs to send the expectant crowd into raptures. It was a fitting send-off for the Bangabandhu Stadium
, which was hosting its last international match.
The victory had been set up earlier in the day by Bangladesh's spinners. Only 94 were scored in the 30 overs bowled by the left-arm spinners - Rafique, Manjural Islam Rana and Enamul Haque jr - and they snapped up five wickets between them at a crucial juncture. Zimbabwe had looked comfortably placed at 139 for 2 but, in a collapse that was almost a replay of the capitulation in the fourth ODI two days back, they were not allowed the chance to launch to a competitive score.
Having seen the Zimbabwe batsmen flounder against Manjural and Rafique in the last game, Bangladesh decided to leave out Khaled Mahmud and bolstered the attack with Enamul as the third prong. Stuart Matsikenyeri fell early, to a dubious lbw decision, but Barney Rogers - their most successful batsman in the series - steered the ship with a composed 84. He went on to be named Player of the Series
Rogers, coming off two fifties and a 49 on the trot, used his feet to neutralise the spin and after a brief rebuilding partnership with Masakadza, Rogers was joined by Brendan Taylor and the two went about setting a solid base. Though there weren't too many boundaries, they kept the scoreboard ticking with smart running. Taylor was given a reprieve on 33, when Rafique grassed a simple chance at short fine leg. But Rafique made up for the lapse soon by trapping Taylor lbw after another dodgy decision from Rahman: TV replays showing the ball to have struck the pad outside the line of the stumps (139 for 3).
With Taylor's dismissal, the wheels suddenly came off Zimbabwe's innings. Manjural conceded only 21 from his 10 overs while Rafique, who had tightened up in his second spell, didn't give too much away either. Only 28 runs came between the 30th and 40th overs and Rogers fell while trying to accelerate. He blasted a six off Enamul but was stumped in the same over as he lost his balance (161 for 4).
Chigumbura and Vusi Sibanda fell in quick time as Zimbabwe slumped to 168 for 6. Taibu ran out of partners and his valiant 31 ended when he was castled by Mashrafe Mortaza in the last ball of the 49th over. It seemed that the toss might not turn out to be the decisive factor for the first time in the series afterall. And Aftab and Rafique ensured that the result wasn't even close.