On a balmy Sunday evening at the Shere Bangla National Stadium, Bangladesh took a leap of faith to cross its first T20 hurdle. What started in the T20 World Cup last year, under a cloud of questions, is finally paying dividends. It is the leap of a new group of players who are embedded into a dressing-room in transition. It was the faith of being adventurous, a bit ruthless. Faith in releasing a lot of experienced players. Faith in "new Bangladesh", a team that has finally bought into the idea that T20Is are just as important as ODIs.
Mehidy Hasan Miraz
, after his double miracle against India
in December, got back into his match-winning ways at the right time against England. He took a valuable four-wicket haul, playing a key role in two batting collapses in their innings. England are aware of this Mehidy. On their last Bangladesh tour in 2016, he had taken 19 wickets in the Test series - seven on debut and a further 12 in his country's first Test win
over the visitors. But now he is a proper allrounder with match-winning abilities. He came out swinging at No 5, with the home side getting stuck in the chase.
Najmul Hossain Shanto'
s 27-ball half-century had stung England in the first T20I in Chattogram, but he played an anchor role in the second game. After all, this match was in Dhaka, where this otherwise-defunct style of top-three T20 batting has to be revived to play such knocks. Shanto watched wickets fall regularly at the other end, so he played to his strength, but didn't overtly attack the England bowlers. Shanto's 46 off 47 balls ended up being the slowest 40-plus score in a Bangladesh win
, but it had substance. Despite a regular fall of wickets, his presence allowed Mehidy to attack with a 16-ball 20 before Taskin Ahmed
and Shanto ran well between the wickets to bring them the victory.
Taskin is another of these elevated cricketers in the Bangladesh team, and one who took a long time to become a match-winner. But he now looks out into the galaxy of fast bowlers, containing stars such as Shaheen Shah Afridi and Josh Hazlewood, and can consider himself to be one of them. He fields very well too, and finds the middle of the bat in crunch moments, such as the penultimate (and decisive) over of this game.
hasn't scored regularly in this series but he is now an established member of the side, who broke plenty of batting records in 2022. Afif Hossain
has quietly become the most regular T20I player in the Bangladesh team, beating Mahmudullah's 54-game streak
. Hasan Mahmud is growing into a white-ball role that many believed he has had the potential since 2020. Towhid Hridoy
, Rony Talukdar
and Shamim Hossain
have been picked in this series purely based on their BPL performances.
The catalyst for this shift in mindset within the group came during the T20 World Cup last year. The BCB shook things up by bringing in Sridharan Sriram, effectively as the head coach, while the likes of Litton, Shanto, Mosaddek Hossain and Yasir Ali were given the assurance that they can play with freedom. Bangladesh didn't set the world on fire in falling short of the knock-outs, but there was visible progress in their mentality.
"I thought we did well in the T20 World Cup," said Mehidy. "We had big opportunities, like if we beat Pakistan, we would have played the semi-final. We were unfortunate to miss out. Everyone currently is playing positively, everyone is clued to the gameplan. There's not much to think in T20s. You just have to react to every ball that comes your way. There's risk and courage involved. Look at Towhid Hridoy. He doesn't look like someone who is playing his first international series.
"Look at Shanto. There has been so much said about him. Some really bad stuff. Now he is playing so well. He has turned around, and shown excellent mentality. He is being consistent too. He did well in the T20 World Cup. He was the highest run-getter in the BPL. He is doing well in this series. These small changes have been huge for the team."
Victories such as these, against big teams like England ,will strengthen the team's -self-confidence, Mehidy added.
"We have young players with us, so doing well against big teams will give us the mental edge," he said. "We can get stronger. We now know how to fight against big teams. There's nothing to lose against big teams, but a lot to gain. We won this series. We had nothing to lose. But the way we won this series, will certainly motivate us."
Despite needing just 118 to win, Mehidy said that Bangladesh's Shakib Al Hasan had urged them to stay focused while mapping out their strategy during the mid-innings break. "We tried to be as calm as possible with the bat. We didn't get too happy bowling them out. The captain said, don't be happy just yet. We will celebrate after we win. We should be serious in every moment, and support those batting in the middle," he said.
Bangladesh frayed in that calmness on several occasions, but Shanto, Mehidy and Taskin have now faced these tough moments enough times to know exactly how to react. Shanto kept the chase going at one end, Mehidy ruffled the feathers at the other, before Taskin kept his nerve in the last two overs. New Bangladesh is a lot more about trust, confidence and positivity. But there's going to be more. The next challenge awaits on Tuesday.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84