Early caution to late aggression, Bangladesh put together well-planned innings

Tamim Iqbal and Mohammad Mithun laid the platform an under-pressure Bangladesh needed against a fine bowling attack

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Tamim Iqbal played a responsible captain's innings for Bangladesh  •  Getty Images

Tamim Iqbal played a responsible captain's innings for Bangladesh  •  Getty Images

Bangladesh would have left the Hagley Oval on Tuesday wondering what might have happened had they held their catches. Two easy catches were put down, which led to New Zealand gaining momentum and eventually going 2-0 up. That must have been particularly hard for the visitors to digest, given how diligently and effectively they'd gone about their job with the bat across the game's first half.
Bangladesh's 271 for 6 was an impressive score given how they had batted in the previous match, the nature of the Hagley Oval pitch and the strength of the New Zealand bowling attack. Besides, another batting collapse would have added more sparks to an already toxic atmosphere back home. But captain Tamim Iqbal led by example, Mohammad Mithun chose this game to get back into form and, in contrast to how easily they folded in Dunedin, Bangladesh's top-order applied themselves diligently in Christchurch.
Tamim Iqbal and Soumya Sarkar added 81 for the second wicket to recover from the early loss of Liton Das. Three more sizable partnerships followed, particularly the fifth wicket stand between Mahmudullah and Mohammad Mithun that had 63 runs in just 6.5 overs. What also helped Bangladesh was the eight wickets they had in hand in the last 20 overs. Traditionally teams have targeted doubling their total from the 30-over mark: Bangladesh scored 138 in the last 20.
In the first 30, there was hardly any risk-taking. Iqbal and Sarkar relied on rotating the strike more than looking for boundaries. Sarkar understandably batted with a lot of restraint after being under pressure following his duck in the first ODI. Meanwhile, every time the side took three or four runs early in the over, Iqbal would offer a pronounced dead bat for the final balls of the over. While this defensive approach might have irked a few, it must also be said it was very responsible of him under the circumstances.
After the game, Iqbal said he wanted to be well set before taking any chances against the New Zealand bowlers, who got breakthroughs whenever Bangladesh had a partnership going. "I was well set at the crease and only took calculated risks after reaching my fifty," Iqbal said. "We kept losing wickets as soon as we got together a partnership. Mithun played really well against a top bowling attack in difficult conditions. I would take 271 on this pitch because it wasn't a 300 pitch. We did all we could with the bat."
When Iqbal fell in the 31st over, Mushfiqur Rahim struggled to time the ball during his 34 off 59 balls, but Mahmudullah and Mithun changed gears quickly - just what Bangladesh needed at that point. Mithun batted especially confidently, at times playing shots that had looked beyond him in his stretched-out international career so far. He said later that he had only wanted to react to each ball, rather than premeditate shots.
"I am happy with the way I batted," Mithun said. "I feel it helped my team. I just tried to stay in the present. I tried to play ball to ball. We all know New Zealand has tough conditions for us. We couldn't get too bogged down here, which would have made it difficult to score for us. When I came to bat, I tried to play according to the ball and positively."
Iqbal praised Mithun for the innings, highlighting how he has been coming in and out of the squad depending on other players' availability.
"He played an outstanding innings but we are only talking about him because he played well. But the situation he finds himself in, it is never easy even for an established cricketer.
"He played a couple of matches against Zimbabwe but then he had to make way for Shakib against West Indies. So it was pleasing to see him do well today, and I hope he can establish himself in the side."
Iqbal curbing his own style is not really a new role for the Bangladesh captain, who has spent the last seven years trying to bat with a touch more restraint. This has been mainly due to Bangladesh not finding a consistent opening partner for Iqbal, particularly after Imrul Kayes lost his regular place in the ODI side.
To allow a middle order full of strokemakers like Rahim, Mahmudullah and Shakib Al Hasan to play freely, Iqbal has been given the anchor's role. Whenever he has pulled it off, it has meant batting till the 40th over at least, before unleashing the big-hitting in the last ten overs. Several of his innings in which he has faced more than 100 balls have been in these last six or seven years, often leading to Bangladesh either getting a big score or winning due to the big score.
Mithun, for his part, is a vastly experienced domestic batsman. The team management has shown patience with his spot in the middle order, particularly in Shakib's absence. His - free-flowing - batting today was mostly of a batsman bringing his experience to the fore. It all added up to positive things for Bangladesh, until those dropped catches turned the game.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84