“I wanted him to hit the winning runs. In the dressing room he said that this meant a lot for him.” – Mashrafe Mortaza on Mahmudullah © Associated Press
The 18th over had just begun with Bangladesh needing 26 runs to win. The captain Mashrafe Mortaza, wearing his pads, thigh-guard and gloves with the bat in hand, was pacing around the viewing area of the Shere Bangla National Stadium. The coach Chandika Hathurusingha went up to him with the type of plan that can make or break a game.
Bangladesh had two very experienced batsmen in the middle with Mohammad Mithun, picked originally as a top-order batsman, in waiting outside the dressing-room, ready to go at the fall of the next wicket. Mashrafe was inside, subject of his coach’s pep talk.
“I hadn’t even put on the helmet when the coach came up to me and said, ‘Amir is reversing the ball, and will be pitching it full so you go and take the chance. You will hit him straight down the ground’,” Mashrafe told ESPNcricinfo. “This was just before Shakib’s dismissal so going to bat at that point was the coach’s decision. Since he was so encouraging towards me, I felt brave. I knew that if I can connect, I could get fours or sixes. He had told me that I shouldn’t go to bat if Shakib gets out in the last ball of the 19th over but if he does fall in the next few balls.”
The TV cameras had shown a glimpse of this conversation when it quickly panned back to Mohammad Amir running in to bowl the second ball. Shakib’s daft attempt at a scoop had him bowled and while the rage was about to get real, Mashrafe strode out to bat at No 7.
He blasted the first ball, full and swinging away from him, down the ground and saw Mohammad Sami dive over the ball. Amir pinged him with a bouncer next ball but he managed to get inside the line of the delivery and put enough bat on it to guide it through fine leg for another crucial four. The hints that Mashrafe and Hathurusingha have been dropping for the last four months about his role as a floater in the batting order are now, for the first time, seeing a major use.
As for Shakib’s dismissal, Mashrafe defended the allrounder’s shot selection. However, he gave a large amount of credit to Mahmudullah for soaking up the immense pressure at that crucial moment.
“The best thing was that someone who didn’t think about pressure was coming out to bat after Shakib,” Mashrafe said. “I never think about getting out. Shakib plays that shot well in the nets. At that time the pressure was creeping in, he took the chance but he didn’t get it. He took a calculative risk, unfortunately it didn’t come off.
“Even after I had hit those two fours, we needed 18 runs to win. [Mahmudullah] Riyad asked if he should still take chance. I didn’t want him to doubt himself. I told him to do whatever is possible. A bad ball is a bad ball. I didn’t want him to get out though. Riyad handled the scenario well.”
Mahmudullah said at the post-match presentation ceremony that the match reminded him of the 2012 Asia Cup Final when he was the main batsman in charge as the game went into the last over. Bangladesh needed nine to win on that day against Pakistan but eventually lost by two runs. Mashrafe said that he had the belief that with Mahmudullah around in the last over, they would win it this time.
“I was sure that we could win if we go to the last over,” Mashrafe said. “I wanted him to hit the winning runs. In the dressing room he said that this meant a lot for him. He thought about that a lot because it was a similar situation in 2012.
“We wanted him to have the finisher’s role from the beginning of this tournament. Everyone remembers the big innings but what he has been doing, it was as important. He has been doing it almost every game though we didn’t think that he would be able to do so.”
Mashrafe said that it was a big occasion for Bangladesh to win a virtual semi-final in a multi-team competition. He remembered the 2015 World Cup quarter-final when they bombed badly against India, but now he feels many of his teammates will enjoy such pressure matches.
“This is quite big for Bangladesh cricket and it does excite me,” Mashrafe said. “We have done very well in ODIs recently but this is a big tournament and this was a virtual semi-final match. I think that Bangladesh will play a lot of matches like this in the future.
“When we played in the World Cup quarter-final, we took pressure even though we really didn’t have to. Many of these players will get these situations and I just wanted them to enjoy. They were spot-on with taking their responsibilities.”
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo