Mehedi Hasan Miraz – “We thought if we score 240-250, it would be difficult for any opposition. We were short by 20 runs” © Getty Images
Twice, the captain Mehedi Hasan Miraz got Bangladesh Under-19s back into the semi-final against West Indies Under-19s. But when he came to bowl his last over, with West Indies needing just eight runs off 18 balls, he was tasked with scripting a miracle. There was not to be any, as he gave away one run in his over, took the cap from the umpire and slowly walked towards Mohammad Saifuddin, who eventually conceded the winning runs.
Mehedi was one of those Bangladesh players who did not sit down on the floor after Shamar Springer hit the match-winning four. Instead, he pulled a few of his team-mates to their feet, and when all of them were slowly walking towards the on-coming West Indies players to shake hands, the Shere Bangla National Stadium gave them a standing ovation.
Mehedi had been the face of Bangladesh Under-19s side all tournament. His calmness under pressure, and his ability to bring the team out of trouble had touched one and all.
From 88 for 4 with the set batsman Joyraz Sheik just dismissed, Bangladesh could have folded quickly, but Mehedi held on, adding 85 runs for the sixth wicket with Saifuddin. He rode out the pressure period and found a boundary whenever the West Indies bowlers tried to put together a cluster of dot balls. With the ball, Mehedi bore the brunt of Gidron Paul’s early bashing but kept himself on until he removed Pope in the seventh over.
Bangladesh were still in the game at that stage, but it was not to be their day. Despite Mehedi’s 60 off 74 balls and the two early wickets, Bangladesh could not really find a way to beat West Indies. The crux of the trouble was not the West Indies fast bowlers’ early verve, but the way the hosts only made 30 runs in the last five overs and lost four wickets, including those of Mehedi and Saifuddin, before the pair could start the final assault.
Mehedi later said that 20 more runs towards the end of their innings would have made the difference, though he stood by the decision to bat first.
“The wicket was slow. We don’t play under pressure at this level of cricket,” he said. “We thought if we score 240-250, it would be difficult for any opposition. We were short by 20 runs. When Saifuddin and I got out at that time, the runs dropped down. That’s where it went wrong for us. If I was there till the end, we could have reached 250. We had to take risk as we had six wickets in hand in the last five overs. We went behind the eight-ball as soon as Saifuddin got out the next ball to my dismissal.”
Mehedi rued the extra runs mainly because of the way Saifuddin kept bowling those yorkers. He was proud of how Saifuddin kept Bangladesh in the game with his yorkers but realised that unless the West Indies batsmen went after him, they would not be effective. “He does bowl good yorkers but since we were defending a low total, it wasn’t working because they were not trying to go after him.
“Their attacking start reduced the pressure that was on them at the start of the chase. Had the spinners bowled better, we would have stopped them,” he said.
Mehedi said that his team learned how to handle pressure at a young age, particularly playing in front of a large crowd and handling expectations. “As much as we say there’s no pressure, there is some at the U19 level. We never played in front of such a big crowd.
“We had the pressure from the expectation that we have to win the semi-final. We are still very young. We have to manage all this, and now that we have seen such situations, played in front big crowds, we will manage it well next time.”
Mehedi’s side may have been the first from Bangladesh to reach the last four of the competition, but he hoped that the team would improve even further in the next World Cup.
“The third-place match is also important as it would mean we would be among the top five Test-playing nations in this competition. Mushfiq bhai’s team were fifth, and after us, the next generation can better our result.”
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo