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Bangladesh's unlikely heroes step up as race for World Cup spots heat up

Head coach Hathurusinghe pleased with "depth" of the squad after struggling to put on a "collective effort" in Asia Cup

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
The India-Bangladesh game in Colombo had all the tell-tale signs of a typical tour-ending affair for an eliminated team. Bangladesh are known for poor performances in the last games on tours. They made five changes in this inconsequential game of the Asia Cup. One was a forced change, but the rest seemed to be the team management testing their bench strength.
Bangladesh rested their first-choice fast bowlers and gave opportunities to two top-order batters who were warming the bench for most of the tournament. They also handed an ODI debut to pace bowler Tanzim Hasan Sakib. With the World Cup squad yet to be announced, the Asia Cup and the upcoming three-match ODI series against New Zealand in Dhaka are important for players, especially those on the bench, to make a case for selection.
Nasum Ahmed, Mahedi Hasan and Tanzim contributed a combined 87 runs from Nos. 8, 9 and 10. Shakib Al Hasan and Towhid Hridoy struck fifties to get them out of yet another top-order collapse, but once these two fell, Bangladesh were staring at another freefall. But the lower-order batters played a total of 110 balls, hitting ten fours and two sixes to rescue the team. Nasum kept one end going with his career-best 44 while Mahedi and Tanzim provided some fireworks in the end.
With the ball, the same trio accounted for four wickets from their combined 26.5 overs, conceding runs at 4.91 per over. Nasum and Tanzim aren't recognised allrounders but their cameos came in handy as Bangladesh snatched a consolation win.
"[Beating India] is huge for us to go into the World Cup," head coach Chandika Hathurusinghe said. "We go with a lot of confidence, especially with what happened in this tournament. We had a really good run up to the Asia Cup, but in this tournament we struggled to put on a collective effort. I am not giving excuses, but we played in different conditions like Kandy, Lahore and Colombo. We had some injuries at crucial times. The pleasing thing for me is the depth of our other players. We could give three guys the opportunity to showcase their talent and what they are capable of, thinking of the World Cup selection. It gives us a really good depth to select the 15 players."
Hathurusinghe had special praise for Mahedi who was dropped after Bangladesh's first game in the group stage against Sri Lanka. Long considered a genuine allrounder, Mahedi hasn't been able to nail down a spot in the XI.
"Overall as a cricketer, I was very impressed with his attitude and demeanour on the field. I didn't see him much before, but he is so confident when he is bowling. He bowled some big overs in this game. He got us back into the game with Shubman Gill's wicket," Hathurusinghe said.
Tanzim's performance surprised everyone, including Hathurusinghe who felt the newcomer did his World Cup chances a world of good. "I don't think he did his chances any harm. He actually put his hands up for the World Cup selection," he said. "Until now we were thinking of trying to proceed without any injuries to our four fast bowlers.
"As you know Ebadot [Hossain] isn't there for the World Cup. I think [Tanzim] showed us what he is capable of. I am pretty confident that if I had to rely on him, he has done well for his chances."
Though Bangladesh finished above Pakistan in the Asia Cup, not making the final will still rankle within the team. Hathurusinghe said that there are concerns in the batting department and although Hridoy continues to bat well, he has to take his innings deep.
"(Hridoy) is very clear about his role as well as his game at the moment," he said. "He has been scoring runs since he made his ODI and T20I debut. Actually, I am a bit disappointed with him today. He got fifty and threw it away. He could have gone on to put in a more decent score. Overall, he understands his role and his game."

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84