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Match Analysis

Litton comes out of his shell and shows the way for Bangladesh

The side has struggled in the powerplay this year, but Litton stepped up in Adelaide and gave India a scare

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Everyone is talking about Litton Das' run-out. It was a defining moment in the game, as Bangladesh not only lost their best batter, but also the momentum. They ended up six runs short of their DLS-adjusted target of 151 in 16 overs. India are now best placed to make the semi-finals, while Bangladesh are on the brink of being knocked out.
Litton's 60 off 27 balls, however, had knocked the wind out of India's sails in the first seven overs and left them nervous even when the rain came down. It was that sort of an innings - full of beautiful strokes - as Litton got out of his shell for the first time in this T20 World Cup.
More than anything else, it was a knock that Bangladesh have been waiting for a long time. The confidence in the top order was so low that the team was clutching at straws. Questions about the opening pair often drew frustrated responses from the team management. Everyone knew about the struggles, but there was also a sense that someone just had to play such an innings. You can't go through two World Cups in two years without a good knock from one of the main batters.
Litton's 21-ball fifty is the second fastest by a Bangladesh batter. His strike rate of 222.22 is the second highest among Bangladesh players with a 60-plus score in T20Is. Litton also became the second Bangladeshi to get to his fifty within the powerplay. His strike rate was also the second highest among batters who have faced a minimum of 25 balls in a T20 World Cup innings - slotting in behind AB de Villiers.
Litton had cracked three fours off Arshdeep Singh's first over, threading the gaps at point, mid-on and cover respectively. He deposited Bhuvneshwar Kumar for a six over deep square-leg, before driving him down the ground and dabbing him through slip and short third-man, in the next over. Another six off Bhuvneshwar was followed by a duel against Mohammed Shami. He slammed two pulls off him that went for a four and a six, racing to his half-century, before crashing him through extra-cover. In all, Litton hit seven fours and three sixes in the powerplay.
Litton has given Bangladesh such rapid starts in T20Is in the past, most notably in 2018, when it looked like he was finally coming out of his shell in the shortest format. It has taken him a while but he has, at long last, played a significant knock at the T20 World Cup.
Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan said that Litton's confidence from Tests and ODIs has finally transferred to his T20I batting and that they never doubted his ability.
"He has been scoring runs in Tests and ODIs for the last two-three years," Shakib said. "He is doing well in T20Is this year. The confidence is back in his T20 batting. He knows how to score the runs. He had a big opportunity, and he played to his capability. We rate him quite highly. He didn't play anything out of the box. We know this is how he plays."
It is expected that Litton's knock will not only open him up further for Bangladesh's last group-stage game against Pakistan in Adelaide next week, but also give the top order some muscle. The top order hasn't provided the team with a good start lately.
Top-order batters are expected to attack more often in T20Is, but Bangladesh have struggled so much in the powerplay that their run-rate (7.23) during this phase is among the bottom half among teams who have played at least 15 innings this year. This is partly because of the lack of stability - Bangladesh have used as many as 10 different opening pairs in 20 matches this year.
Litton was slotted at No. 3 as a back-up for the openers, though he is an accomplished opener himself. Litton was tried seven times at the top with four different partners, but that didn't work for Bangladesh. The team management then tried to protect Litton by pushing him down to No.3, but that didn't work for him.
Litton is now the top scorer for Bangladesh in all three formats this year. He was scoring runs regularly in the middle order in the Test side, and his opening stand with Tamim Iqbal in ODIs is one of that side's strengths.
Litton was also a heavy scorer last year, but found it hard to score in the T20Is at home, where the series against Australia and New Zealand were played on raging turners. Litton's struggles seeped into the 2021 T20 World Cup as well in the UAE, resulting in the selectors dropping him for the following series against Pakistan.
Now that drop looks like it happened ages go. Litton's team-mates have never doubted him, not since his underwhelming debut season in 2015. Now, they will draw a lot of confidence from him in one of their worst years as a batting side.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84