Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
WI v BDESH (1)
IND in ENG (1)
IND-W in SL (1)
ENG v IND (1)
Papua New Guinea in Singapore (1)
NAM T20 (1)
Vitality Blast (8)
"If Tamim bats 20 overs he would like to have got a hundred."
That was Peter Borren after Tamim Iqbal's 83 not out in 20 overs against a challenging Netherlands attack. Borren was talking about how sensibly Tamim played the situation. It was a different match. Against a more error-prone Oman attack, Tamim batted the whole 20 overs and went a step further to register Bangladesh's first Twenty20 international century.
This innings was not too dissimilar to the one against Netherlands. He scored 57% of the team's runs here in 63 of the 120 balls; against Netherlands he faced only 58 balls and scored 54% of the runs. Here he had support through Sabbir Rahman, which helped him play a little more freely.
Oman had done their homework. They reckoned Tamim is good off the pads so you can't bowl straight. They knew he cuts well so you can't give him width. The idea was to bowl around off stump, take the ball away and give him no pace to work with. Amir Ali did that with his Ramesh Powar-like offbreaks. Bilal Khan used the tackiness of the surface with his cutters to cramp Tamim up. It didn't help that Soumya Sarkar's troubles continued at the other end. At 19 for 0 after four overs, somebody needed to go. This is where Tamim had to bat differently than he did against Netherlands to pull Bangladesh out of this slow start.
Tamim did so by picking his target: Ajay Lalcheta, whose left-arm spin came into him. The weapon of choice was the sweep over square leg. Having messed with Lalcheta's length, Tamim used the pace of the flatter deliveries to guide them past short third man, and mixed it with the occasional big hit down the ground.
"It's easier for me as a left-hand batsman, it is easier than attacking an offspinner," Tamim said of that ploy. "And we had a very good team meeting this morning. We knew exactly where he would bowl. The meeting was fantastic. He bowled exactly there. Outside off. I was waiting for it. I was lucky enough to connect a few and got off to a good start [against him]."
Lalcheta and the other left-arm spinner, Aamir Kaleem, bowled 15 balls to Tamim for 41 runs.
The other thing Tamim did really well was choose his times to take risks. Even against Netherlands he broke the shackles just when the opposition was turning the screws; here, too, he made sure the pressure was always on the opposition. "I need to wait till [they bowl to] my strength," Tamim said of when he takes the risk. "I just wanted to see that if they bowl me a bad ball or if I get a boundary early in the over, the pressure goes back on them. If I can get a boundary early, then rotate the strike, you get eight or nine in an over. That is what my plan was."
Of the 14 boundaries that Tamim hit since the start of the fifth over, eight came in the first two balls of the over. One of those not off the first two balls was his final, the one that brought up the hundred. Off went the helmet even as he was running. For a moment it looked like he would do the Mahmudullah-style slide after the recent win, but he stood upright. He gestured towards the coach Chandika Hathurasingha, as if rubbing his hand on a bald head. Then he pointed to where the ball went. The coach had been asking his batsmen for a hundred. A big innings had been delivered.
Of the celebrations Tamim said nothing had been planned. "I was too excited so I did everything possible," Tamim said. "I wanted to celebrate the hundred. Till the last moment I didn't know I will get the hundred. I didn't plan any celebration. Whatever came in the heart I did."
At the start of the innings Tamim became the first Bangladeshi to 1000 T20I runs and took the lead over Shakib Al Hasan as the highest run-getter for the country. He is Bangladesh's leading run-scorer in all formats, and aims to cement his position. "You don't play for the records, they come their way," he said, "But whatever six-seven-eight years I play I should leave a tough task for the next guy to get, which will someday happen. That will be good for Bangladesh cricket."
An occasional hothead who used to react angrily to every criticism has come a long way. If that can happen, for Bangladesh in this World T20, "anything is possible".