Liton Das carries on template of being Bangladesh's top-order anchor
"I batted like in a Test match for the first 20-25 overs. The situation wasn't in our favour"
Bangladesh's basic batting plan for the last six years, at least, has been to ask one of their top three batters to anchor the innings till the 40th over at a steady pace, by letting the batters at the other end bat around him. Tamim Iqbal has mastered this approach, particularly since 2015 when they had an upturn in this format. It is firmly believed that one of the reasons for their rise is this plan of the anchor's role. Bangladesh don't have big hitters in the lower order so they believe that they can get the best out of the death overs by having set batters at that time of the innings.
After his 102 helped the visitors to a massive 155-run win over Zimbabwe in the first ODI in Harare, Liton Das said that he followed those orders to the tee. The blueprint helped the Bangladesh opener as he needed a big innings to return among runs after a poor recent patch in ODIs.
Das saw Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan, Mohammad Mithun and Mosaddek Hossain fall at the other end, but batted on till the 42nd over.
"The weather and their bowling made batting tough in the first 20 overs for us," Das said. "I was under a bit of pressure as I haven't scored runs in ODIs for a while. Wickets were falling at the other end too, so it was my responsibility to take my team to a good position. I batted like in a Test match for the first 20-25 overs. The situation wasn't in our favour.
"I realised that I can reach the next stage only with wickets in hand. Riyad (Mahmudullah) bhai changed the momentum, plus when they brought on the spinners, it became easier to bat. During the team meeting, we discussed that one of the top five has to bat till the 40th over to take us to a big score. I kept that plan in mind, that I should bat at least 30 overs."
Das' first boundary came in the 16th over, when he was on 16 off 36 balls, and he raised his strike rate once he reached the eighties in the 37th over. By the time he got out, Bangladesh were in a position for the lower order to get them to a 250-plus total. Afif Hossain and Mehidy Hasan Miraz cashed in on Das' platform, scoring 58 off 42 balls in their seventh-wicket partnership.
As much as Das' innings was a comeback for him in ODIs, it was a continuation of his recent form after he made 95 in the one-off Test last week. Das said that he realised during that innings how to bat in the Zimbabwean conditions.
"I missed the last ODI due to an injury. I only came back to play the last five matches in the DPL T20s to get back my batting rhythm," he said. "When I got some runs in the Test match, I realised that one has to spend time at the crease here to get a big score."
Das said that his struggle for runs after cricket returned after a long gap during the pandemic was in stark contrast with how he felt before March last year. He was in prolific form then, having scored an unbeaten 126 and 176, the highest score by a Bangladeshi in ODIs, in a span of three innings against Zimbabwe in Sylhet.
"I had good form before the pandemic, so if cricket continued normally I could have done well using that momentum," Das said. "I had a lot in my mind when cricket resumed during the pandemic. I think that's how I spent eight innings in this way.
"But I always tried to do something for the team. I got a lot of support from the seniors in the team and my wife."
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84