Bangladesh's first Champions Trophy campaign in more than 10 years ended with their first appearance in a semi-final of a major competition. They went down to England in the opener, but walked away with one point in a rain-ruined clash against Australia and followed it with a stunning performance against New Zealand to storm into the semi-final. An underwhelming bowling display against India, however, saw them bow out of the competition. Here are five takeaways from their Champions Trophy showing.
Turning it around
Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah didn't just put together a record partnership for Bangladesh, against New Zealand, they put together a fine example of how not to give up under pressure. Usually, Bangladesh are on the receiving end of such turnarounds; so the 224-run stand for the fifth wicket highlighted the progressive mentality that has dominated the Bangladesh cricket in the last two years.
Shakib and Mahmudullah adopted a sensible approach: they saw off the swinging new ball before laying into New Zealand's change bowlers. By the time Kane Williamson brought back his main bowlers, both the batsmen had settled down. Several Bangladesh batsmen might have thrown their wickets wickets in such a situation, but Shakib and Mahmudullah kept going and nearly finished the chase of 266. Mosaddek Hossain then ascertained victory with a slashed boundary.
The bowlers clicked in unison against New Zealand, but struggled in the remaining matches, including the semi-final. It, however, shouldn't be too alarming as most of the bowlers are young and have time to sharpen their skills. Mustafizur Rahman has to find a way to be effective on unresponsive pitches, while Taskin Ahmed needs to prove that there is more to his bowling than pace. He can't just run in and blast out opponents with his hit-the-deck bustle.
Mashrafe Mortaza and Shakib Al Hasan bowled well in patches but were prone to leaking boundaries. Rubel was the most impressive of the lot, showcasing a variety of skills, especially in the slog overs.
Leaner batting line-up
The strategy of playing eight batsmen in the opener against England pointed to defensive cricket. Bangladesh then ditched it and returned to the seven-batsman policy, which allowed them four front-line bowlers to add to the left-arm spin of Shakib. It makes sense for them to opt for batting cushion in a big event, but this is where long-team planning in selection comes into play.
Bangladesh, in fact, could have have managed with only six batsmen. Soumya Sarkar, who had a poor run, could have been dropped, and instead Imrul Kayes could have opened with Tamim Iqbal to lend more balance.
Playing six batsmen, including Shakib and Mushfiqur Rahim, means that there is a chance to slot in a seam-bowling allrounder, who can also score quick runs in the end overs. Only Mohammad Saifuddin, who made his T20I debut earlier his year, has been identified as a candidate for this role.
Is Mashrafe still an asset?
Mashrafe hasn't yet made any announcement about his ODI future but given his impressive performance as a new-ball bowler and captain, it would be a big surprise if the BCB lets him go. Moreover, Taskin, Rubel and Mustafizur haven't quite fired with the new ball.
Mashrafe's unbeaten 30 in the semi-final against India was a stark reminder of his spirit, as well as how much Bangladesh need him as a lower-order contributor. He has struggled in the field, but, despite criticism from the TV commentators, continues to hold his own.
Getting used to pressure
Bangladesh have had to deal with rising expectations for some time now, especially from their own fans, but after making their first semi-final appearance in a major event, the wider world will also come to expect similar performances in the coming years.
Expectations within the dressing room and individually would rise too. The challenge tor Bangladesh in the next two years would be to achieve consistency across formats.