Pressure gets to Bangladesh's seniors
Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan and Musfiqur Rahim fell at crucial times during a chase of 170, and the Bangladesh lower-middle order could never recover from that
Bangladesh's first, third and fifth wickets in the second T20 were Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim. All three dismissals came at crucial stages in their 170-run chase against South Africa. Crucial because they were the most experienced and skillful batsmen the hosts had.
Tamim appeared strained as he tried to force the pace while his opening partner Soumya Sarkar looked more at ease doing the same. They added 46 runs in the sixth over when a slower, short ball from David Weise did Tamim in. Bangladesh were still in a good position, but South Africa had been in a better one. Their openers AB de Villiers and Quinton de Kock added 95 for the first wicket.
Shakib fell in the 11th over, to Aaron Phangiso's first ball, trying to smite him over long-on. Mushfiqur, whose last international fifty was against Pakistan nearly four months ago, couldn't hit debutant Eddie Leie's full toss past cover. Bangladesh were 82 for 5 in the 12th over. Then Nasir Hossain fell for a duck and completed an awful sequence: three wickets, five balls, no runs.
Losing all three of their best batsmen and Nasir with nearly half the game to be played left newcomers Litton Das and Rony Talukdar swimming against the tide. As a debutant Talukdar did well enough for 22 coming in at No. 7 since he is a specialist opener or one-drop in domestic cricket. Litton too had to slum it out in the lower order. Neither of them are big hitters, so it was always going to be hard on them and the team in such a big chase.
Mashrafe said the batsmen made some wrong choices with their shots and left little too much to do in the final overs. Bangladesh needed needed 67 runs in 30 balls, with only three wickets in hand.
"We came back well enough after [South Africa] made 95 in the first 10 overs," Mashrafe said. "We started well with the bat but we couldn't put together partnerships. I think we had problems with our decision-making. If we think about our strength, we have to score more runs in the first six overs. Other teams have hitters at the death, but we are slightly weak in that area. When I say decision-making, I mean shot selection. We could have gone into the last five overs with more batsmen in the shed. We could have got 60-odd in those overs but that didn't quite happen for us."
Mashrafe dismissed concern over Mushfiqur's lack of runs, but admitted they picked eight batsmen in this game because they were bowled out for 96 in the first T20.
"There is nothing to worry. He did as best as he could. We would always want Mushfiqur be in his best form, but it won't happen all the time," Mashrafe said. "It is hard to get going in two T20s. A batsman don't always get time in this format. I am sure he will come back and the day he does, we will win that match.
"We haven't used eight batsmen in the last eight months. We thought they would put up a big total. We had bowling options too. We didn't do too well in the last game with the bat. We wanted more runs with the extra batsmen. Tamim and Soumya started well but it wasn't enough."
Mashrafe added that Bangladesh has to emulate South Africa in all aspects: "They fielded superbly in the last game. We were fine in the first match but we gave away some twos, we had some overthrows. I won't say fielding is a serious issue but when you play against a unit of that level, you have to push yourself. Then only you can create winning opportunities.
"I think the batsmen were under pressure as we lost wickets in the middle and were chasing a big total. We should play with cooler heads. They will come hard at us. We are not doing very badly, so we just have to hold on to our mentality, be positive and we can come back quickly."
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84