A change of venue brought a change of luck for Bangladesh as they picked up their first win of the tour, at the Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo. It was their fifth win in seven completed matches at the ground, but their captain Shakib Al Hasan played down the role of the conditions, saying it was a good performance that brought the change in fortune.
"I think this suits us more than the Harare ground," Shakib said. "The wicket had some spin, enough for our bowlers to do something. I don't think we always win here because it suits us; we played good cricket today. The spinners were steady and Rubel [Hossain] bowled brilliantly. Today all the three parts clicked, though we can still improve our game and be more consistent."
Bangladesh came into the ODI series as favourites, having dominated Zimbabwe in recent years - they had won the last six bilateral ODI series between the two countries before this one. Shakib admitted that now that they had lost the series there was less pressure, which helped, but pointed to the team's lack of cricket in recent months as one of the main reasons for the 3-1 scoreline in favour of Zimbabwe.
Before this tour Bangladesh had not played since April, and apart from Shakib, who played in the IPL and then for Worcestershire, and Tamim Iqbal, who played for Nottinghamshire in the Friends life T20, the rest of the Bangladesh players have not had much cricket since then.
"There was individual pressure on players; plus we haven't played competitive cricket for three months, except for me and Tamim," Shakib said. "It was difficult to adjust for the others. I and Tamim had the mindset, but the rest felt some pressure. If we could have adjusted a bit earlier, it would have helped."
Though the win will not affect the series result, Shakib said there were positives to take from it, and was particularly happy with the new players in the Bangladesh team. Nasir Hossain and Shuvagoto Hom have both made impressive starts to their careers, and Shuvagoto helped steer Bangladesh to victory today in the company of Shakib. "I am very satisfied with them. The way Shuvagoto batted, I really liked it. It didn't seem as if he was someone new to international cricket.
"I still think we should have finished today's game better. We needed 70-odd and we had lost four wickets. If I had got out suddenly, there would have been a lot of pressure on the new batsmen. Senior players should take the responsibility of finishing the game. But I liked the way our top-order batsmen showed a positive mindset, something that we wanted from the beginning. We still have one more game to go and if we can finish that on a high note, there'll be some positives we can take back home."
Alan Butcher, Zimbabwe's coach, said his side had not become complacent and were determined to stop Bangladesh from winning the last game, on August 21 in Bulawayo.
"We spoke a lot about not getting complacent because we have already won the series," Butcher said. "We wanted to win the series 5-0. But on the day we've played poorly and Bangladesh deserve to win. We had a good wicket to bat on and ended up 60-80 runs short of a competitive target. There were soft dismissals, a silly run-out and a collapse at the end. Apart from [Brendan] Taylor, who was excellent, the rest of the batting was ordinary."
Zimbabwe were without their star bowler of this tour, Brian Vitori, in Bulawayo because of an injury, but Butcher said he could be back for the last game.
"Vitori was having problems with his calf muscle during the last game in Harare so we decided it was better to rest him before it got worse. Hopefully he'll be ready for Sunday. But we won't play him if he's not 100% fit."
Butcher said he was aware Bangladesh were improving as the series went on but said the defeat was more due to their own mistakes. "We saw in the last game in Harare that Bangladesh were improving, but we expected more of ourselves than what we produced today. We need to turn that around on Sunday."