Bangladesh 244 for 9 (Saleh 77) beat Zimbabwe 204 (Rogers 51, Taibu 46, Manjural 4-34) by 40 runs - Zimbabwe lead the five-match series 2-1

Rajin Saleh struck 77 as Bangladesh beat Zimbabwe by 40 runs © Getty Images

The left-arm spinner Manjural Islam Rana bowled a dream spell, finishing with a career-best 4 for 34, as Bangladesh kept their five-match one-day series alive with a win in the third game at Chittagong. Zimbabwe now lead the series 2-1.

Bangladesh rattled up a competitive 244 for 9 batting first, then stuck to a plan while bowling. Zimbabwe's batsmen were never allowed to get away, and as the asking rate continued to climb, the sustained pressure led to a clatter of wickets.

In the first two games Bangladesh had lost the toss, chased, and lost their way. This time they had the luck of the coin on their side. Rajin Saleh and Nafis Iqbal laid a solid foundation, putting on 58 for the first wicket, and then another decisive partnership of 89 between Saleh and Aftab Ahmed meant that - despite some middle-order jitters - Bangladesh still ended up with a decent total.

Chasing anything above 230 is always a difficult proposition at Chittagong, and Zimbabwe needed to make the most of the opening overs, when the field was up, if they wanted to make a match of it. But the new-ball bowlers Mashrafe Mortaza and Nazmul Hossain (who came in for Tapash Baisya after missing the previous match), kept the runs in check.

Manjural was brought into the attack in the 13th over, and made the breakthrough with his first ball. Stuart Matsikenyeri, who had been unable to break the shackles when the quicker bowlers were on, charged down the track, but missed the ball completely with his wild swing: Khaled Mashud completed the stumping (45 for 1).

One over later Dion Ebrahim, who has had a dismal time in Bangladesh, pulled Nazmul straight to Aftab at square leg and was gone for 1. Hamilton Masakadza was uncomfortable from the start, surviving 19 balls for 9 before attempting an uppish sweep at Manjural which was well taken by Enamul Haque junior at deep midwicket.

Bangladesh then got lucky with an lbw decision. Barney Rogers had dropped anchor, and had just reached his second half-century of the series when Mahbubur Rahman gave him out to Khaled Mahmud's medium-pace, although the ball was clearly missing leg.

At 93 for 4 and the required rate pushing seven an over, the best Zimbabwe could hope for was yet another rearguard inspired by their captain Tatenda Taibu. He and Brendan Taylor were slowly picking up the pieces, but in Mahmud's final over Taylor tried to clear Iqbal at mid-off ... and failed (133 for 5).

The dangerous Elton Chigumbura threatened with 27 in 18 balls, but then was rooted to the crease to a Manjural delivery and was leg-before, the ball after smashing him for six. When Chigumbura departed, Zimbabwe were 177 for 7 and into their last eight overs - but Bangladesh could not relax until Taibu was out of the way. They finally got their man four runs later when he played inside-out to Mortaza, who had come back for his second spell, and Manjural took the catch at deep extra cover. Taibu was gone for 46.

Manjural went on to complete his spell, taking his fourth wicket when Tinashe Panyangara was stumped. And Mortaza wrapped things up by going through the defences of Douglas Hondo.

Saleh had earlier played without inhibition on a pitch that was better than the one on which the second match was played. He pulled anything pitched slightly short to the fence, and pounced on anything wide. Iqbal, meanwhile, was composed and had eased his way to 24 before a ball from Chris Mpofu stayed low and uprooted his off stump.

Aftab then settled down, content to give the strike to Saleh. They scored at a run a ball without taking undue risks, and Saleh reached his fifty off 65 balls. With Bangladesh chugging along, Taibu introduced Chigumbura. His first ball disappeared over long-on for six - but the second disposed of Saleh for 77, brilliantly caught by Ebrahim, lunging forward at point (147 for 2).

Mohammad Ashraful's wretched form continued. He had pulled Chigumbura for six as soon as he came in, but when he attempted the same with Rogers, he was bowled. Further trouble loomed when Manjural gave a return catch to the stingy Prosper Utseya (178 for 5). Habibul Bashar holed out trying to accelerate, but Mortaza cracked a timely 21, in as many balls, as Bangladesh finished up with a handy total of 244.

Utseya, affectionately called "Dots" by his team-mates for his economical spells, completed his quota, leaking only 33 runs. Taibu also used the gentle spin of Rogers and Taylor to good effect: they combined to bowl 15 overs for 63 runs, and took out three batsmen.

A close-fought series concludes with two matches at Dhaka on Saturday (Jan 29) and Monday.

Rabeed Imam is a sports writer for the Daily Star in Dhaka.