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How Shakib and AB de Villiers boosted Yasir Ali

He failed to fire in the Afghanistan series, but bounced back to help Bangladesh record their first win in South Africa

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Yasir Ali struck a 43-ball half-century  •  Getty Images

Yasir Ali struck a 43-ball half-century  •  Getty Images

Look at any famous Bangladesh win from the past, and you'd invariably notice how a freak performance got them home. Think 2005 and it's hard to look beyond Mohammad Ashraful's special at Cardiff. Think 2007 World Cup and you have to look at Tamim Iqbal's trigger against India's pace attack. Think South Africa at the same edition and Abdur Razzaq comes to mind. Bangladesh needed that extra push from one individual to get them over the line.
Now, things are looking slightly different. Gone are the days when they wait for Shakib Al Hasan to turn up at every corner of the field. If Tamim is injured, like he had been lately, they've got people to step up and open the batting. If Mushfiqur Rahim can't keep wickets to manage his workload, they've got Nurul Hasan to do an equally capable job.
Because of how specialised cricket has become, a team like Bangladesh need a lot of cylinders to fire at the same time. The openers need to lay a platform for the middle order. Regardless of conditions, fast bowlers and spinners have to bowl well in different phases of the innings. Fielding too has to be of a certain quality to get the important stop and catches done.
In a nutshell, Bangladesh did all of this and much more in beating South Africa for the first time away from home. The short tour couldn't have gotten off to a better start; all these elements synced together to deliver a 38-run win in the first ODI in Centurion.
AB de Villiers came to our hotel the other day. He said some stuff which really helped me. I didn't do well in the Afghanistan series, so this knock will boost my confidence."
Yasir Ali after his match-winning effort
Litton Das and Tamim provided solidity at the top, followed by Shakib and Yasir Ali tearing into the South African attack in their fourth wicket partnership. When defending the big total, Taskin Ahmed's wicket in the first Powerplay were crucial, and when Tamim desperately needed his fifth bowler to get through nine overs, Mehidy Hasan Miraz turned his 0 for 39 of his first five overs into 4 for 61 from his nine.
But for Yasir, the one who took a brilliant catch in the square-leg boundary at a crucial stage to go with his maiden ODI fifty, the win over South Africa was waiting to happen. He said that after Bangladesh's miraculous Test win over New Zealand in Mount Maunganui in January, the team had already started talking about doing something similar in South Africa.
"It was certainly a win that we had expected," Yasir said. "When we beat New Zealand in Mount Maunganui, the Bangladesh team started believing that we can beat any team in overseas conditions too. There was no difference here. When we were in New Zealand, we were talking about having the belief to win in South Africa. We have to follow the same game plan in the next match, but we also have to ensure that we keep having a positive frame of mind."
Yasir spoke of how Shakib's words at the start of their 115-run fourth wicket partnership made him comfortable at the crease. He said that after doing poorly against Afghanistan, he needed a good knock to give him confidence. He was also boosted when AB de Villiers, invited by head coach Russell Domingo, met the Bangladesh players at the team hotel the day before the first ODI.
"When I asked Shakib bhai about the wicket, he told me straightaway that it is a very good wicket," Yasir said. "You will understand if you play 5-10 balls. Then you can go for your shots. AB de Villiers came out our hotel the other day. He said some stuff which really helped me. I didn't do well in the Afghanistan series, so this knock will boost my confidence."
Yasir wasn't done just with the bat. On the field, when Rassie van der Dussen swung towards the square-leg boundary, Yasir ran to his right for a few yards and then put in a full-length dive to complete a catch. van der Dussen was gone for 86, South Africa still needed 123 in 12.5 overs. The wicket was important as he had added 70 with David Miller, who went on to make 79.
"It was getting a bit tense," Yasir said. "The partnership was growing, but we kept them under pressure. They were getting boundaries but we were bowling a lot of dot balls too. The run-rate was always rising. I was thinking that I need to do something special on this wicket. I wanted to grab any opportunity that came my way. Everyone appreciated the catch."
The man who got the wicket, Taskin, was Bangladesh's best bowler on the day. Yasir said that Taskin's regular wickets for Bangladesh is due to his tremendous turnaround since the pandemic hit in 2020 when he worked harder on his fitness and corrected his bowling action.
"He has changed himself since the pandemic. He is in good shape. Everyone contributed in this win but Taskin made a special contribution. He took two wickets in an over, which was a major setback. One has to appreciate him."
Yasir himself has also been through quite a journey since last year. He was not picked for ten months even though he was in every Test squad against West Indies, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe. Since his debut in November, he has so far struck a fifty each in Tests and ODIs.
"It was a lesson for me," he said. "I understood the environment of the national team. How the game is played out in the field. Interacting with the senior players. It was a blessing in disguise for me. Now that I am playing, it is going well, and sometimes it is not going well. There are ups and downs in life."

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84