Sampath Bandarupalli is a statistician at ESPNcricinfo
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99 and 74 - Bangladesh's scores at the fall of the fourth wicket in the first two ODIs against Sri Lanka when Mahmudullah joined Mushfiqur Rahim at the crease. Partnerships of 109 and 87 between them put the hosts in a dominant position on an ever-slowing Dhaka track. The middle-order batters could not deliver for the third time in a row, on Friday, chasing 287.
Only three times has the target of 240-plus been chased down at this venue across 20 attempts in the last seven years. However, Rahim and Mahmudullah finished among the top three contributors in the unsuccessful chase, continuing their pattern of holding the fort, and pushing Bangladesh to their maiden series win over Sri Lanka in any format.
Rahim-Mahmudullah to the rescue
The recent series was an example of what Rahim and Mahmudullah have got used to, as they paired up 13 times in ODI cricket whenever Bangladesh lost four or more wickets with the score yet to touch three figures. They have aggregated 771 runs in such situations, only behind the 915 runs by the Indian pair of MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina. But the Bangladesh pair has a superior average and the same number of fifty-plus stands despite having made five fewer appearances.
The Dhoni-Raina pair is ahead of Rahim-Mahmudullah in the list of most partnership runs for the fifth and lower wicket in ODI history. Across 51 innings, the Bangladesh duo together added 1891 runs at 41.10 per dismissal. All four century stands between them in ODIs have been for the fifth wicket, the joint-second most by any pair in the format. The pressure they often deal with might not be evident from the partnership numbers as the average score at the entry point is only 149.4 and no more than one specialist batter to follow them.
The partnership in the series opener was the third time Rahim and Mahmudullah shared a century stand when Bangladesh were four down under 100. Only two other pairs have had as many century stands in these situations - Angelo Mathews with Lahiru Thirimanne of Sri Lanka and Rahim with Shakib Al Hasan.
Rahim's big impact
In all, Rahim has been part of eight 100-run stands in ODIs whenever his team lost four or more wickets inside 100 runs on the board, behind only Dhoni, who was part of 14 such partnerships. Batting at No. 4 post the 2015 World Cup, the Bangladesh wicketkeeper has aggregated 589 runs in 16 instances whenever Bangladesh lost two wickets inside 25 runs on the board. Rahim has the clear edge ahead in terms of runs in this list but has been a consistent feature at No. 4 only from 2017.
During this period, he scored 2275 runs in ODIs at No.4, standing only behind New Zealand's Ross Taylor (2755). Though the average in the mentioned situations reads only 36.8, Rahim got two of his eight ODI centuries, including his career-best 144 against Sri Lanka in Asia Cup 2018, after Bangladesh lost two wickets in the very first over. No player batting at No.4 scored more in an ODI innings, coming in when the team score is 1 for 2 or worse.
The silent warrior
Mahmudullah often stays under the radar in a line-up comprising Iqbal, Shakib, Rahim and Mashrafe Mortaza. The first-ever centurion of Bangladesh in the World Cup has got used to rescuing the team from early collapses, ever since he settled to lower middle-order (in 2017). Since the start of 2017, Mahmudullah has walked out to bat with the team's total has been 132.8 runs at an average, which drops down to 122.8 runs whenever he turns up at No. 6.
Coming to bat with four or more wickets down inside 100, Mahmudullah has scored 553 runs across 14 outings in the past four years, averaging 50.3. He played a cricial role in Bangladesh's road to the knockouts in the Champions Trophy 2017, when he put up a 224-run stand for the fifth wicket with Shakib. In pursuit of a 266-run target against New Zealand, the chasing team lost four wickets for 33 runs, only to be rescued by the twin tons.
Only one player has scored a century during a successful ODI chase batting at No. 6 or lower, coming in with the team total lower than 33 - Jos Buttler, 110* against Australia in 2018 at Manchester when England were 27 for four. The luxury of Rahim and Mahmudullah in the middle order has made Bangladesh a team to beat in their backyard, as they have the best win record in bilateral ODIs at home since World Cup 2015.
With inputs from Shiva Jayaraman