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Match Analysis

Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Afif Hossain show that Bangladesh's future is in safe hands

A mere month after the Mount Manganui miracle, Bangladesh's young 'uns scripted another memorable win

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Afif Hossain (R) bumps fists with Mehidy Hasan Miraz during their partnership for the seventh wicket, Bangladesh vs Afghanistan, 1st ODI, Chattogram, February 23, 2022

Afif Hossain (R) bumps fists with Mehidy Hasan Miraz during their remarkable partnership for the seventh wicket  •  AFP/Getty Images

Before the series opener against Afghanistan, Afif Hossain's ODI career was going nowhere. He had 146 runs from seven matches with perhaps just one innings of note. Mehidy Hasan Miraz had climbed to No. 2 in the ODI rankings last year, but his batting never really took off.
Expectations from both players were low, particularly when Bangladesh slipped to 45 for 6 in the 12th over on Wednesday. Bangladesh have had very few comeback stories, the most famous one being the Shakib Al Hasan-Mahmudullah stand in Cardiff against New Zealand in 2017. Earlier in the 2011 World Cup at home, Mahmudullah put on an unbroken 58-run stand for the ninth wicket with Shafiul Islam to stun England in Chattogram. Even in the other such tense wins, Bangladesh had at least one experienced player to see them home.
Miraz and Afif, however, operate in the post-Mount Maunganui world. Miraz himself played a vital role - both with bat and ball - in that sensational win in Mount Maunganui. It won't be prudent to overlook the influence of the miracle in this win, too, particularly at a time of great instability in Bangladesh cricket.
To script a second miracle in as many months in 2022, Afif and Miraz had to take stock of the situation facing them. At 45 for 6, they were probably in danger of being bowled out for their lowest total in ODI cricket, but the pair absorbed the pressure and countered Afghanistan's spinners whose threat had dominated the pre-match talk. Rashid Khan's 11-wicket haul in Chattogram Test in 2019 was fresh in everyone's memory, and even fresher was how Mujeeb Ur Rahman troubled the local batters in this season's BPL. Mohammad Nabi, too, can give the ball a rip.
"Not for once did we mention winning the game in the middle. We just wanted to conserve our wickets," Afif said. "Our only goal was not to lose anymore wickets after we were six down. We just wanted to spend as much time as possible in the middle. There wasn't many calculations for us. We wanted to spend time at the crease and collect whatever runs come our way. It became run-a-ball towards the end, but we definitely tried to play normal cricket."
The dressing room and dugout sat tensed as Bangladesh collapsed. However, after the win, Shrinivas Chandrasekaran, the Bangladesh performance analyst, revealed on Instagram that he had heard Miraz telling Afif that they both could chase down the target. The two batters survived and eventually snatched the game from Afghanistan's grasp.
"I don't have so many plans in my mind when I am batting," Afif said. "I am just focused on the next ball. The only message from the dressing room was to keep batting the way we had been batting in the middle. To keep wickets in hand. We can win the game if we were in the middle."
As soon as they got past the survival mode, Afif and Miraz understood that they needed to adopt a more calculated approach. They had to play out the Afghanistan spin trio and seamer Fazalhaq Farooqi who had taken 4 for 19 in the powerplay. So, they chose to go after Yamin Ahmadzai and Gulbadin Naib, and were prepared to wait for them in the slog overs.
"Miraz bhai batted really well," Afif said. "He picked up boundaries from his end when there was a few dot balls. We spoke positively with each other. We both knew that as long as we didn't give away our wickets, we could win the game."
Afif said that his unbeaten 93 off 115 balls was his best knock at this level, and that seizing his chance to bat more than 35 overs was important. "Playing well against a world-class attack, against whom I had to consider a lot of things. So this is definitely the better innings," Afif said. "I am always happy to play well for the country. I try to do well. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't. The sort of opportunity doesn't come always. Today I made use of a big opportunity."
The likes of Miraz, Afif, Mahmudul Hasan Joy and Shoriful Islam still have a lot left to do, but the last two months have proven that the future of Bangladesh is in safe hands.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84