Match Analysis

Despite series win, batting continues to be major concern for Bangladesh

Their top seven produced their worst combined performance in 11 years, averaging just 18.95 for the series

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Mushfiqur Rahim had his stumps rattled by Axar Patel, Bangladesh vs India, 3rd ODI, Chattogram, December 10, 2022

Mushfiqur Rahim managed just 37 runs in the series  •  AFP/Getty Images

Bangladesh's ODI series win against India will remain an outlier. Their No. 8 batter bailed them out twice with two unbelievable knocks, while their bowlers made decent contributions. But otherwise they won 2-1 despite their top seven batters producing their worst combined performance in 11 years. They have never won an ODI series batting this poorly. Bangladesh's previous lowest top seven batting average in a series win was 31.07, a full 12 points more than this series' 18.95.
A typical ODI side has six specialist batters but for the better part of the last 15 years, Bangladesh have stretched their line-up to include seven, and sometimes eight, specialist batters. They could do so because of the presence of allrounders such as Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah. In this series, it was their fourth allrounder, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, who played two critical knocks. Among the specialist batters, only Mahmudullah's 77 in the second game was worth a mention.
Captain Litton Das got three starts but didn't capitalise on any of them. He looked good in Chattogram too, but dinked Mohammed Siraj to mid-off when he was on 29. Shakib stuck around for 43 but never looked like settling down for the long haul. In the end, Bangladesh's top seven faded away by the 28th over of the chase.
Apart from Litton, Bangladesh's top three haven't really provided a foundation or protection to the middle order. Najmul Hossain Shanto scored two fifties during the T20 World Cup in Australia but has an ODI batting average of 14 after 15 games.
Anamul Haque's tally of 33 runs is his joint-lowest for an ODI series where he played at least three games. This was his second series after he returned to the 50-over side following a gap of three years. Although he struck two fifties against Zimbabwe in August, the knives could once again be out for him.
"Everyone likes to score runs," Litton said in defence of his players. "What Miraz did, if a top-order batter had done that, we would have had an easier time. [But] I am not worried about it. Both games in Mirpur had different scenarios. We batted second today, but if it was a 300-350 game, it would have been a different ball game.
"I don't think there should be a concern. India's batting collapsed too. The wicket was behaving in that way. It was a big chase today so there was no point trying for 300-320. We wanted to bat to win, but our attacking cricket didn't work. Next time we face this situation, we will play the same type of attacking cricket."
"Today, it was a good batting wicket, but we couldn't cope with the run rate pressure. There's a lot to learn from this type of game. We have the skill to chase down 300 runs"
Litton Das
But it is hard to deny that most of the top seven failed in this series. Afif Hossain made the fewest runs among the top seven, finishing with just 14 from three innings. Still, the main focus will be on Mushfiqur Rahim.
In an ODI series where he has batted in the top five at least three times, Mushfiqur's 37 runs here is his lowest aggregate since 2011. He has failed to total 100 runs in four series in a row now, having tallied 77 against Zimbabwe and 96 against Afghanistan. In between, he had 20 runs from two innings against South Africa. These series, though, came after his best bilateral outing, when he made 237 runs at 79 against Sri Lanka last year.
Mushfiqur's retirement from T20Is after the Asia Cup could have been an indication that his powers are on the wane. He has done reasonably well in Tests this year, but a string of low-scoring ODI series is far from an ideal situation. Bangladesh have work to do and Litton knows it.
"We are not the best team in the world," he said. "So we can work on these factors: top-order batting, bowling, and fielding. My dropped catch [of Virat Kohli when he was on 1 on Saturday] was costly. I know this type of catch is expected of me. If I had held on to the catch, they would have been under a bit more pressure. [But] the improvement will only come through a lot of practice."
Batting in Tests hasn't been easy either. Apart from the first Test this year, which they famously won against New Zealand, they have mostly struggled for consistency. After winning the ODI series in South Africa, their bowling prospered in the Test series but their batting didn't come to the party. The same happened at home against Sri Lanka, and away in the West Indies.
It could be a similar story for the upcoming Tests against India. Mominul Haque and Mahmudul Hasan Joy struggled for runs during the domestic season, while Shanto has scored just one fifty in eight Tests this year. A lot will rest on Shakib, Mushfiqur and Litton, out of whom Mushfiqur will be under considerable pressure once again.
Many believe that Bangladesh's biggest disadvantage is that they play most of their home games at the Shere Bangla National Stadium, where the pitches are either raging turners in Tests or slow decks with a bit of uneven bounce in white-ball cricket. Chattogram offers them the best bet of playing in conditions similar to those on offer at next year's ODI World Cup in India. Litton said that they will learn more about setting up 300-plus totals or chasing them down in the coming months, but didn't say anything about playing more matches in Chattogram.
"We didn't play entirely bad cricket in Mirpur. It is true that the pitch wasn't playing even. Today, it was a good batting wicket, but we couldn't cope with the run rate pressure.
"There's a lot to learn from this type of game. We have the skill to chase down 300 runs. India's wickets and outfields are good, which was the case today. I think if we play more regularly, we will get into this groove."
Litton, however, said that it was a proud moment to win his first series as captain. "I am quite happy at the way everyone helped me. I never felt pressure in the field. As a first-time captain, there's nothing better than winning a series. It would have been better had we won today as well, but it wasn't bad.
"When I did the first press conference, I had the belief in my team. Someone asked if I wanted the trophy, and I said, 'Yes, definitely.' As a captain and a player, it is quite natural to want to win such a big series. There's nothing bigger than a series win."
There's merit in allowing batters to play on pitches like Chattogram, so that they can get their mojo back, which many believe has been lost since 2016 when the team management first decided to go for raging turners in almost all formats. But the current team management also has to weigh their options - whether to give batters a bit of security, or get wins under their belt. The good thing perhaps is that the series win will give them confidence, and allow them to think proactively about the floundering batters.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84