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Bangladesh reaping rewards of a more open-minded approach in T20Is

The series against Afghanistan with good death bowling, set batters finishing the chase, and holding on to their catches are signs of things coming together for them

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Litton Das and Afif Hossain put on a 67-run opening stand, Bangladesh vs Afghanistan, 2nd T20I, Sylhet, July 16, 2023

Bangladesh have a powerplay strike rate of 140.27 this year  •  Walton

Bangladesh's season of change in T20Is finished with a high in Sylhet. Their four-wicket win against Afghanistan gave them their first bilateral series win against a side who usually dominate them in this format. To go by their theme this year, Bangladesh dominated the powerplays with both bat and ball. They bowled well at the death and had set batters finishing the chase. They also caught almost everything that came their way.
Bangladesh's series wins against world champions England, Ireland and Afghanistan are proof of a visibly more open-minded approach in T20Is. They call it a bold approach in Bangladesh, but it is basically playing catch-up with the rest of the world. Batting powerfully in the powerplay. Having a strong pace attack. Having enough bowlers. Using big-hitters in the back-end who don't just look blindly for sixes. A lot of things are coming together for this team.
Bangladesh's search for a powerful top three in the batting line-up also seems to be over. Litton Das, Rony Talukdar and Najmul Hossain Shanto are their top three scorers this year but the likes of Towhid Hridoy, Shakib Al Hasan and Shamim Hossain have also scored important runs.
Taskin Ahmed has led the bowling attack with not just wickets, but by also being an enforcer. With his pace, bounce and movement around the corner, opponents have had to look for runs against the other bowlers. But those have also included Shakib who has combined well with Mustafizur Rahman and Hasan Mahmud.
Their catch-to-drop ratio is 33 taken and six dropped since March this year, a huge improvement compared to how they have fielded in the last two years.
This T20I form bump also comes at an interesting time for Bangladesh. They have lost two of their last three ODI series, also against England, Ireland and Afghanistan. It is rare for a side that prides itself on their home bilateral record in ODIs since 2014. The T20I side is no match but losing only against Pakistan at home since 2019 isn't a bad record too.
Shakib, who was adjudged the Player of the Series against Afghanistan, has led the side during this period. He is said to be one of the masterminds behind this revival since the T20 World Cup last year. Shakib said that the current bunch of T20I players, many of whom are in the ODI set-up too, can take this confidence of doing well in this format to the two big tournaments in a couple of months.
"Most of the T20I players are in the ODI squad so they can take this confidence along with them," Shakib said. "We will face Afghanistan in the Asia Cup and in the first game of the World Cup, so taking this feeling along will help us. This will be a big confidence boost before those tournaments.
"It is satisfying when our plans are reflected in the field. Players are executing it in the middle, and we are getting results. What better can there be? We hadn't done well against Afghanistan in T20Is in the past so it is a good feeling to win this series. I feel it will give us a lot of confidence in the near future."
Shakib was impressed with the way the bowling attack complemented each other in this game against Afghanistan. Taskin took two early wickets before Shakib and Mustafizur took two each. Although Hasan Mahmud didn't take wickets, he combined well with Taskin with the new ball to concede just 20 runs in his three overs.
"I thought Hasan bowled better than Taskin," Shakib said. "The bowling group's job is to make life easier for the batters. It is a good combination between the pacers and spinners. It is also a healthy competition between the two types of bowlers. I think it is helping the team."
Shakib said that sticking to the same group of players since the T20 World Cup last year has paid off with these series wins. He added that within this group, the batters and bowlers have had to switch between different roles, which is only going to make them stronger as cricketers.
"Towhid Hridoy is one of the few additions since the last Asia Cup or the World Cup. We have kept almost the same team. There have been two or four players who have come and gone, but that's part of the process. We have a lot left in our quest to find the best combination. But the way we have done according to the conditions, it is going well. We have to adjust to new conditions in the future.
"Flexibility is useful in T20s. An opener and a No. 7 may have to do the same thing in this format. If an opener bats for 15 overs, he would have to bat in the last five overs. If a batter can adjust to every situation, then they will take a difficult situation in their stride. The same with bowlers. If they bowl in a tough situation, then nothing will be new to him."

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84