The Tigers were reeling on 87 runs losing five wickets in 20.5 overs against Afghanistan in the crucial tie of the Super Four round at the Asia Cup
Just when Bangladesh were on the verge of a batting debacle, middle-order batsman Mahmudullah walked to the middle.
The Tigers were reeling on 87 runs losing five wickets in 20.5 overs against Afghanistan in the crucial tie of the Super Four round at the Asia Cup in Abu Dhabi Sunday.
Mahmudullah having scored 53 runs in the previous three matches had to step up for himself, but more importantly, in this game, he also had to do it for the team’s cause.
Mahmudullah had the left-handed Imrul Kayes at the other end of the crease for the daunting task. The duo had to garner runs against a sharp Afghan bowling attack, and they did it in style with Mahmudullah as the aggressor.
The occasion was the first Imrul was batting in the middle-order for Bangladesh. The two held their nerve, pulling off a record 128-run sixth-wicket stand, and boosted Bangladesh to a competitive 249 for the loss of seven wickets in their stipulated 50 overs.
Later, Bangladesh defended the total and won the game by three runs. The result came in the last over of the game as left-arm pacer Mustafizur Rahman defended eight runs.
Right-handed batsman Mahmudullah has driven Bangladesh to epic victories, but has never been in the limelight, alike to that of Mashrafe bin Mortaza, Shakib al Hasan or Tamim Iqbal.
But that has never hurt his ambition and propensity to do hard work. His reputation of lifting the team from a batting failure has earned him the moniker “silent killer” from the supporters. In the 2015 World Cup, Mahmudullah emerged as the first Bangladeshi to score a hundred in the world event.
His back-to-back centuries, against England and New Zealand in the World Cup, are still yet to be replicated. Last year in the Champions Trophy, he struck another century, against New Zealand, and partnered Shakib for a record 224-run partnership to lift Bangladesh to the semi-final of the tournament.
“I do [enjoy being the crisis man]. The pressure gives me the opportunity to get into my rhythm, and give back to my team as well. Pressure will always be there. We just need to find out ways to handle it, that's it,” said Mahmudullah following the Afghanistan win in Abu Dhabi Sunday.
Perhaps the best feature from Mahmudullah and Imrul’s partnership was how the duo toyed with the Afghan attack, especially spinners Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman. The two Afghan bowlers recently emerged as a stiff challenge for the Bangladesh batsmen.
These two bowlers were the chief reasons behind Bangladesh’s struggles in the bilateral T20I series whitewash earlier this year in Dehradun, India, and the humiliating defeat in the Asia Cup’s group stage a few days ago.
“We all know that Rashid is an outstanding bowler. He is playing very well and is one of the strike bowlers around the world. That does not however, mean that he is unplayable. Maybe we couldn't apply ourselves against him the way we wanted. In our partnership, our plan was to not give Rashid our wicket. We dug deep and we saw it through till the end. That was our target, and Alhamdulillah, it came off,” Mahmudullah informed.
Mahmudullah’s contributions for the team was not limited to the willow. The off-spinner got a crucial breakthrough in just his first over, dismissing Mohammad Shahzad, and broke the blooming 63-run partnership with Hashmatullah Shahidi. And as a fielder, he took the important catch of Afghanistan captain Asghar Afghan. The all-round heroics earned Mahmudullah the man-of-the match award, for the fifth time in his 160 ODIs for Bangladesh.