Match Analysis

Mahmudullah and Mehidy script cross-generational tale of strength in crisis

One of them has been Bangladesh's troubleshooter all his life. The other is quickly taking on his mantle

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Mehidy Hasan Miraz and Mahmudullah put on 148 after coming together at 69 for 6  •  AFP/Getty Images

Mehidy Hasan Miraz and Mahmudullah put on 148 after coming together at 69 for 6  •  AFP/Getty Images

On Wednesday, Bangladesh's original crisis man met Bangladesh's crisis man of 2022.
When Mahmudullah and Mehidy Hasan Miraz got together during the second ODI, Bangladesh were 69 for 6 in the 19th over, one wicket away from exposing their tail. Bangladesh needed a partnership to calm things down, so they could at least get to the three-figure mark, and gain a measure of respectability to a side whose top and middle order had malfunctioned for the second game running.
They needed damage control, but Mahmudullah and Mehidy did more than just that. They added 148, the highest partnership for the seventh wicket against India in ODIs.
After Mahmudullah fell for 77, Mehidy went on to add an unbroken 54 for the eighth wicket with Nasum Ahmed, off the last 3.5 overs of the innings - another unlikely event from a side that isn't known for big hitting - as Bangladesh finished with 271. A single off the last ball of the innings brought up a maiden ODI hundred for Mehidy. He scored it off just 83 balls.
In the process, Bangladesh became only the fifth team to add 200-plus runs to their score after being six down in an ODI innings. Much as he'd done in the first ODI, Mehidy had led a Bangladesh fightback after India had done all the hard work to push them into a corner.
Bangladesh have a great home record in recent years, but teams don't usually recover from 69 for 6. Especially if you're this Bangladesh team, whose Nos. 9, 10 and 11 had averaged 4.37 this year - the second-worst figure of any team other than Afghanistan - before this game. They were reeling from a top-and-middle-order failure, and they had one of the worst tails in the world to follow.
But only a couple of days ago, Mehidy and Mustafizur Rahman had put on an unbroken 51 for the tenth wicket to win the first ODI out of nowhere. It came after Bangladesh had crashed from 128 for 4 to 136 for 9 in a chase of 187.
When Mehidy strode to the middle today, the crowd let out a mild cheer, acknowledging his heroics from Sunday while recognising that the situation didn't warrant too much celebration.
Mehidy and Mahmudullah were bound to take a bit of time to take stock of the situation. India were not exactly breathing fire, but had done enough to keep the run rate in control for a few more overs. Ten overs into the partnership, Mehidy slammed Washington Sundar over his head for the first six of the innings, and flat-batted Axar Patel over the midwicket boundary three overs later.
Mehidy reached his fifty in the 38th over, and the pair brought up their century stand in the 40th. Four balls later, Mahmudullah brought up his half-century. Each milestone seemed like a validation of Bangladesh's progress as an ODI side through the years.
Mahmudullah made sure the partnership never lost its shape. His approach had to be conservative, since this was the last recognised pair, so he didn't open up until the 46th over, swatting Mohammed Siraj down the ground and picking up four more two balls later with his trademark pick-up shot between long-on and deep midwicket. It is often said that this pick-up shot is a barometer of Mahmudullah's form and rhythm.
Mahmudullah has performed this sort of rescue act numerous times. The most famous ones came during the 2015 World Cup, when he withstood England's swing-bowling might after coming in at 8 for 2 in Adelaide, and then against New Zealand at the 2017 Champions Trophy, when he carried Bangladesh from 33 for 4 to victory in a chase of 266. There have been several other innings and partnerships in difficult situations. Mahmudullah has made a career out of being the crisis man; he would have pleased to witness the emergence of another over this last year.
In 2022 alone, Mehidy has rescued Bangladesh from at least three crisis situations. In February, they were 45 for 6 in a chase of 216 against Afghanistan when Mehidy came in and steered them to victory alongside Afif Hossain, the pair putting on 174 for the seventh wicket. Then there was Sunday's last-wicket miracle. And three days later, this innings.
He's done all this while he's had his most prolific year as an offspinner, taking 23 wickets in 14 games at an average of 26.13. Those wickets have included some landmark spells, such as his four-wicket haul in Centurion, where Bangladesh pulled off their first ODI win in South Africa.
Bangladesh are lucky to have had two rescue acts in as many matches, both involving the same player. Mehidy would be wise to pick Mahmudullah's brains about being the last action hero in an unreliable batting line-up. It is a thankless job, and when the runs dry up, the last man out often takes all the blame. Despite all he has achieved as a crisis man, Mahmudullah has faced tremendous criticism through his career, particularly over the last couple of years.
Last year, he led Bangladesh through a poor T20 World Cup campaign, soon after his sudden Test retirement had drawn sharp criticism from the BCB top brass. He lost his T20I captaincy midway through this year, and lost his place in the side for this year's T20 World Cup. Many believed it was the end of Mahmudullah's international career too. But as he has done on a number of occasions, he's reminded everyone how hard it is to write him off. Don't be surprised if he returns to the T20I side too.
Mehidy, meanwhile, is at a very different stage of his career. His Test bowling made him a household name after his sensational debut in 2016, but he's also shown, with every opportunity, that he's a more than capable batter. Senior players such as Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal have always put their faith in him, even while smiling at his extreme confidence. The power of all that positivity, though, has been clear over these two fairytale matches.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84