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Match Analysis

Bangladesh 'finally have the legspinner' they have been craving

He bowled two dream deliveries to help Bangladesh start their T20 World Cup campaign with a crucial win in a low-scoring game

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
The ball pitches outside leg stump, spins viciously and kisses the right-hand batter's outside edge. The batter is squared up, the catch taken at slip. Next over, the ball pitches on middle stump, spins away sharply as another right-hand batter haplessly slogs but finds only air and is stumped.
Bangladesh's fans have dreamt of these kind of dismissals for decades. A legspinner bamboozling good players of spin in a high-stakes match. They have watched this yearningly as other teams have discovered, promoted and encouraged legspinners into becoming matchwinners. Bangladesh have finally got one of their own in Rishad Hossain. His 3 for 22 against Sri Lanka changed the course of their T20 World Cup 2024 match in Dallas, which they eventually won by two wickets.
Sri Lanka were 100 for 3 at the end of the 14th over when Najmul Hossain Shanto gave Rishad his third over. Sri Lanka weren't exactly motoring along but Pathum Nissanka had given them the base for at least a 160-plus total. That would have been a lot to handle for Bangladesh's fragile top order.
Rishad first removed Charith Asalanka, having him hole out to deep square leg off a slog sweep. The next ball, to Wanindu Hasaranga, was Rishad's big moment. Hasaranga is unconventional in the way that he backs away from the stumps to attack the bowlers. Rishad floated one outside Hasaranga's leg stump, it turned, took the outside edge, had Hasaranga squared up, and the catch was taken at first slip.
With Sri Lanka five down, it was time for Dhananjaya de Silva, watching all this from the other end, to show some desperation. In Rishad's next over, he went for the slog sweep but the dip and turn on the ball made him overbalance on the back foot, and Litton Das whipped the bails off behind him.
At 109 for 6, Sri Lanka were already slipping but you couldn't tell that from Rishad's unanimated reactions. He wasn't celebrating profusely. It sometimes leaves his team-mates and TV commentators reacting late to his wickets.
Rishad had rewarded his captain's faith in him and Shanto said after the game that Rishad's improvement as a bowler was due to the hours he put in the nets.
"He was outstanding with the ball today," Shanto said. "He has been improving in the last few series. He practices a lot. He prepares very well. We finally have a legspinner.
"I was always confident about him. He is a wicket-taking bowler. It is not easy to go after a legspinner. They can concede one or two boundaries, but they always have a wicket around the corner. I don't think match-ups really matter with him. He fulfilled my wish as a captain by taking out three wickets."
Rishad was one of the three bowling lynchpins for Bangladesh. Mustafizur Rahman and Taskin Ahmed were also effective, as Sri Lanka lost their las six wickets for 26 runs in the last six overs. It is the least runs and most wickets taken in this period of the innings for Bangladesh in a T20 World Cup game. It made sure Nissanka's blitz in the powerplay didn't materialise into much for Sri Lanka.
"We didn't make a good start with the ball but everyone held their nerve," Shanto said. "The bowlers took good decisions in the middle overs. The fielders backed them up. Everyone showed great character and calmness.
"I was always confident that a wicket or two would swing the game our way. Our bowlers have been doing well for quite some time now."
It was particularly important for the bowlers to hit back in a World Cup game after they finished second-worst among the bowling attacks in the 50-over World Cup in India last year.
Bangladesh's batting struggled too but on a day when the bowlers won them the game, gaining the two points was more important for Shanto. "I don't think I have ever played such a pressure match in my career. From a couple of days before the game, we knew how important this was going to be. I am just happy that we won this high-pressure game. We got two points from it.
"Our batters know that we didn't do well. However, [Towhid] Hridoy batted beautifully and [Mahmudullah] Riyad bhai finished the game. Litton [Das] gave us a good start after a long time. I would hope that whoever gets set, takes us home next time. All seven batters are responsible for getting runs but I don't think all of them will score runs every day."
This was indeed a big game for Bangladesh. They have a below-par record in T20 World Cups. Their build up to this tournament was losing the T20I series against USA last month. When Shanto shed tears at the end of Bangladesh's national anthem, you could sense just how much it meant to him. A defeat would have almost ended Bangladesh's campaign after the first game. They had to beat their favourite opponents Sri Lanka in the sub-continental derby. But they did it cleanly, without the jousting. Bangladesh won it by discovering a new match-winner with the ball.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84