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Match Analysis

Prudent Mashrafe's street-smart moves

Not many Bangladesh captains could have got away with the kind of tactics Mashrafe Mortaza employed but the side's efficiency in the field showed that he is a prudent leader

Mashrafe Mortaza is known for his fighting abilities, whether it is saving a single or the harder job of repeatedly resurrecting an injury-ridden career. In his third stint as Bangladesh captain, he appears to be channeling those abilities into clear decision-making.
Bangladesh have conceded 300-plus scores on 39 occasions, 38 of which came with the opposition batting first. Pakistan could have gone that way but from the comfort of 203 for 2 in the 39th over, they were bowled out for 250 in 49 overs. Bangladesh took the last eight wickets for just 47 runs - as much a result of the visitors' muddled thinking and lack of experience, as the street-smart Mashrafe's tactics and the varied skill shown by his bowlers.
The pressure was put together from the first batting Powerplay over when Mashrafe gave away only four runs. Arafat Sunny conceded 12 in the next over but Mashrafe again cut back the runs, this time conceding five. He then brought back Shakib Al Hasan, who picked up the important wicket of Azhar Ali in his new spell, breaking the 98-run third wicket partnership.
Haris Sohail and Mohammad Rizwan fell in the next two overs before a great Nasir Hossain catch ended another brief innings from Fawad Alam. Mashrafe accounted for Sohail and Fawad while Rizwan gave Shakib an easy catch. At this point Mashrafe brought back Rubel Hossain who had been expensive in his first four overs.
Rubel got rid of Wahab Riaz, Pakistan's only big hitter down the order, and Saad Nasim, before Umar Gul was run-out and Sunny got the last wicket in his fifth spell. Bangladesh conceded just 39 runs in the last nine overs, picking up six wickets. The last time they bowled that well in the last 10 overs against Pakistan was in Chittagong in 2002.
Pakistan had got off to their best start of the series after Azhar and debutant Sami Aslam added 91 runs for the first wicket, batting at slightly better than five runs per over for 18 overs. Aslam impressively picked up seven boundaries, four off Rubel and Nasir. Azhar, meanwhile, kept the run-rate stable with his own thumps through the off side and leg-side glides.
During the two big partnerships in the Pakistan innings, Mashrafe did not stop trying out new moves. In the first ten overs, he bowled five from the Media Centre end and used Taskin Ahmed, Nasir Hossain, Rubel Hossain and Arafat Sunny from the Mirpur Thana end. Taskin's profligacy had forced a change but he also tried out two different types of spinners to a new opening pair.
Throughout the innings, Mashrafe's use of his bowlers was instructive and refreshing. He used himself and Shakib in two spells. Shakib hardly gave away anything in his last four overs, ending up with figures of 2 for 34 from ten overs. Mashrafe improved on his bowling from the second game, and bowled during two difficult periods in this match. While he can bowl poorly in a second spell, in this game, he finished with 2 for 27 in the last five overs.
He rotated the other bowlers rapidly. Not many Bangladesh captains would use bowlers for one, two or three-over spells so often in a game, and still get the most out of them.
Nasir was used in three spells and was taken off once despite taking a wicket. Rubel bowled poorly in his first three spells, which totaled four overs, before his fourth spell yielded two wickets in two overs. Rubel wasn't used after the 40th over in the previous game and but bowled effectively in the last few overs here.
Mashrafe's use of Sunny was also interesting, and effective. Sunny bowled five spells in total, only once bowling three overs on the trot and his last three spells lasted two overs each; he finished with 2 for 43.
Not many Bangladesh captains would have tried such things and got away with it. Pakistan were dismissed for 250, but the game also showed Mashrafe garners more respect as an ODI leader compared to his recent predecessors, Shakib and Mushfiqur Rahim.
Shakib and Mushfiqur led by example. Shakib's all-round ability ensured he ends up being one of the biggest contributors to the team's cause. He has won games single-handedly as captain and more often than not, ended up as either the best bowler or batsman, sometimes both, during his captaincy stints. Mushfiqur's leadership was based on his ability to work harder than everyone else. He made runs regularly during his captaincy too, but his contributions were never as telling as Shakib's.
Both also tended to prefer conservative, defensive, tactics. Both Shakib and Mushfiqur followed norms like using left-arm spinners to right-handers, and orthodox offspinners to left-handers. Shakib sometimes lost confidence in bowlers who had a couple of bad overs; Mushfiqur was said to be too trustful of bowlers. On occasions their faith in these routines worked to the benefit of the opposition.
Mashrafe often asks opposing batsmen different questions as a captain, with attacking field placements. Like Mushfiqur and Shakib, however, he doesn't keep too many slips but attacks with catchers, usually in the batsman's eyeline. The other connection between Shakib, Mushfiqur and Mashrafe is that their own body language hardly drops, even in difficult situations.
Mashrafe never quite backs off. The main complaint about him is that he is reckless. He can dive across the pitch to stop a single or chase hard when there is no need. Often people shout at him to not hurt himself, given his catalogue of injuries. But as a captain, he is careful with how he treats his team-mates on and off the field. He would throw them a reckless challenge but as Bangladesh's efficiency in the field showed on Wednesday, Mashrafe is hardly reckless as captain

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84